The curious case of ‘M Adhikari’UML’s claim that the doppelganger party member is not the governor fails to satisfy observers and lawmakers.
The CPN-UML has found itself in a sticky situation after it recently listed one “M Adhikari” as one of the members of the party’s finance and planning department, which is headed by Standing Committee member Ghanashyam Bhusal.
Soon after the list became public on Sunday, it stirred controversy with many politicians claiming that the person on the list was none other than Nepal Rastra Bank Governor Maha Prasad Adhikari. Ruling party lawmakers speaking in Parliament on Wednesday and Thursday demanded that Governor Adhikari should resign immediately on moral grounds.
Amid the controversy, Governor Adhikari on Wednesday wrote to the UML office secretary asking the party to clarify the matter and clear the confusion about ‘mistaken identity.’ Bhisma Adhikari, the UML’s office secretary, responded saying the person on the party’s list is not the governor without detailing the true identity of M Adhikari.
On Wednesday, Bhusal also said that the party has no policy of including individuals who are public office holders in its committees.
Responding to the governor’s letter, CPN-UML Office Secretary Bhisma Adhikari wrote back: “I would like to clarify that the person M Adhikari of Khotang listed as member of the department is not you—Nepal Rastra Bank Governor Maha Prasad Adhikari.” However, neither Bhusal nor the UML office secretary have revealed the identity of M Adhikari, the member.
Political observers, meanwhile, say it is a legal and moral question, so both the UML and the governor must come clean. “It is in public knowledge that the current governor is a bona fide cadre of the UML for a long time,” Achyut Wagle, a professor at Kathmandu University who writes on political economy, told the Post. “The statement from the UML is a feeble defence for temporary political consumption. Since this is a moral and legal issue, the UML and the governor both must come out clean.”
As claimed by Wagle, this is not the first time Adhikari has run into controversy over his political affiliation.
On June 7, 2016 also, he had written a similar letter to the office secretary of the UML saying his name on a UML department members’ list had created confusion. At that time, the UML responded to Adhikari saying his name was included inadvertently.
Political experts say the party simply claiming that M Adhikari is not the governor is not enough, and they should tell who M Adhikari actually is, if not the governor. “This is a serious issue and shouldn’t be kept unresolved for long. If the person is someone else, then the party should clarify who he is and apologise to the governor,” Sanjeev Humagain, who teaches political theory at the Tribhuvan University, told the Post. “The UML is attempting to cover the matter up without giving a clear answer.”
Section 21 (a) of the Nepal Rastra Bank Act 2002 says anyone who is a member or office bearer of any political party is disqualified to become governor, deputy governor or board member of the Nepal Rastra Bank. Maha Prasad Adhikari will disqualify as governor if it is proven that the person in the UML’s finance committee is him, as per the Act.
Claiming that “M Adhikari” is the governor himself, lawmakers of different ruling parties have said the issue shouldn’t be taken lightly. “Neither the UML nor Governor Adhikari have been able to present convincing clarifications,” said Narayan Kaji Shrestha, a Maoist Centre lawmaker in the National Assembly, on Thursday. “Either they should prove that M Adhikari is not the governor, or the governor should resign.”
Former governors say the longer the confusion persists, the more it will harm the central bank. “Either the UML or Governor Adhikari know who M Adhikari is,” Chiranjeevi Nepal, a former governor, told the Post. “It is their duty to make it clear.”
Asked who “M Adhikari” is, if not Governor Adhikari, UML Office Secretary Adhikari said that the person is Manoj Adhikari, a chartered accountant who currently lives in Biratnagar.
“Chartered Accountant Manoj Adhikari was born in Khotang and is currently a resident of Biratnagar,” he told the Post. “He has been our party member for a long time and has been inducted to the department for the first time.”
While Bhisma Adhikari was reluctant to provide M Adhikari’s contact details, observers claim it was nothing but a futile attempt by the UML to create a doppelganger. “The UML is making futile attempts to produce a doppelganger overnight,” said Wagle. “This is not going to cover up its wrongdoing.”