Old wine in old bottlesNeither Pushpa Kamal Dahal nor Sher Bahadur Deuba has anything in his records to enthuse Nepalis
I remember reading, as a college student studying political science, a eulogy to the Panchayat system with disgust. “Parties fight among themselves, and the country does not develop!” Although King Mahendra, the author of the quote, made a mistake in forming a one-party state, he correctly predicted the behaviour of the current political parties. Presently, our country suffers from delayed development because the CPN (Maoist Centre) has betrayed the CPN-UML, like Sushil Koirala had done to KP Oli last year. With the resignation of Prime Minister Oli, the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Maoists will take months to form a government. This interim period will prompt authorities to delay projects and indulge in corruption.
Oli’s good deeds
Although many have reasons to despise Oli, he can take the credit for laying the foundation stone of the Pokhara International Airport. He has also started wind-electricity projects in Rolpa and through his encouragement, many families have turned to solar power. Suspension bridges have begun to replace tuins (wire bridges).
The CPN (Maoist Centre) and the NC have blamed the Oli government for neglecting the earthquake victims and the Madhesi demands. Oli assumed office nearly five months after the devastating earthquake of 2015. The previous Sushil Koirala government did not do much for the earthquake victims. The Madhesi leaders had nagged Koirala as well. These agitators have forgotten that Koirala (and therefore the NC) had also ignored their demands.
We have to give Oli the credit for saving Nepal from becoming another Bhutan. With the nine-month-long economic blockade, India presumed Nepal would become its client state. Under Oli’s leadership, Nepal stood firm and initiated steps to open more trade points along the border with China. Neither Pushpa Kamal Dahal nor Sher Bahadur Deuba has anything of this sort in his records to enthuse Nepalis. Still we are doomed to have them as the prime minister for nine months each after Oli.
Dahal’s bloody past
On July 6, Sir John Chilcot presented the Iraq Inquiry Report at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster, London. The report concludes that the then British prime minister Tony Blair involved the UK in the Iraq war needlessly. Saddam Hussein did relatively well in spite of UN sanctions. Both the US and the UK should have put pressure on Turkey and Jordan to stop assisting Iraq. Instead, Blair decided to support the then US president George W Bush too readily to invade Iraq. After the Chilcot report, Blair now has to live with the lifelong disgrace of having shed British and Iraqi blood unnecessarily.
Dahal stands as Nepal’s Tony Blair. Despite its failings, Deuba’s government in 1996 had come to power through a democratic process. Dahal, Bhattarai and Baidya, the leaders of the underground Maoist party, started the decade-long war that claimed almost 18,000 lives. The Maoist trio, with Dahal as the leader, could have avoided the war and prevented countless deaths and injuries.
Yet 10 years after the war, Dahal has nothing to show for the war he waged except the delayed development of the country by 30 years. He ironically wants to assume the role of a prime minister in a parliamentary democracy, a system he once despised. However, Dahal has emerged as a lame duck. Recently, he cancelled a tour to Australia due to the fear of being arrested there. The story of Colonel Kumar Lama facing justice in the UK must have rattled Dahal. Having done practically nothing for the country when he became the prime minister for nine months in 2008-2009, Dahal must surely repent of his earlier actions if ordinary Nepalis are to place their hopes on him. His lust for the prime minister’s seat and his desire for amnesty are not hidden. In May, Dahal challenged some to drag him to court, knowing his future partner in the government, the cowardly NC, has no guts to do that.
Ever since democracy re-entered our country in 1990, I have voted and encouraged others to vote for the NC. However, the behaviour of the NC during the past 26 years makes me regret voting for and supporting the party. How can one forget the grand treatment the NC cadres gave to Khum Bahadur Khadka after serving time for corruption, or the tainted Chiranjivi Wagle, Govinda Raj Joshi and Jaya Prakash Prasad Gupta (no longer with the NC)? Both Khadka and Joshi have advocated that Nepal should be a Hindu state, despite the fact that their religion did not prevent them from looting the national treasury. Deuba relied heavily on Khadka to win the party’s chair against Ram Chandra Paudel. Now, he relies on Dahal, who has already betrayed him in the past, to make him the prime minister for the fourth time.
Deuba has already led our country three times. Each stint has been a failure. Whether it was the Pajero scandal, his nepotism and other disgraces, Deuba’s image has been sullied. He does not instil much hope. Ever since he visited Indian leaders early this year, Deuba has been itching to become the prime minister again. With the blessings of our southern neighbour, it looks like his desire will be fulfilled in about nine months.
We have to live with our leaders, but unless they practice ethical politics, our country will remain undeveloped. Unless they reform their present behaviour, they will merely be old wine in old bottles.
Khatry is the Executive Director of Association for Theological Education in Nepal