Dark new world of MadhesGeorge Orwell, the master interpreter of ironies, rightly said, “Happiness can exist only in acceptance.”
George Orwell, the master interpreter of ironies, rightly said, “Happiness can exist only in acceptance.” This appears to be a prescription today for all those disgruntled souls who have difficulty in accepting that the radicalisation of activism in lieu of struggling for the cause of Madhes was a directionless drive to attain a parallel power centre. Nepal is heading towards a time where the newly formed states will host the regional satraps and their wild aspirations, but without entertaining the causes for which the idea of decentralisation was brought into the discourse.
Creating a chasm
The recent elections made it possible to radically change the political fundamentals of the land with a tendency to keep the grievances on hold. This tendency itself alienates a vast section of the people, including Madhesis, Janajatis and women, who otherwise are in the mainstream and rightly deserve to avail themselves of equality, justice and fraternity. Janakpur, often cited as the political theatre in post-1990s Nepal, signifies the ailing tendency of the country’s functional polity that is adamant about making genuine issues redundant, and allowing spineless regional rabble-rousers to dictate the fate of the masses. The regime in Kathmandu has done no proper homework in recent years, which has affected Nepal’s regular and informal diplomatic channels beyond the obvious.
Heavily copied and styled from the cross-border political turfs of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the working political culture of the new generation of Madhesi leaders is majorly shaped through the radicalised affirmation of the Other Backward Castes (OBC) identity, and not remotely linked with the ideology or cause for which the masses have been undergoing hardship.
More than symbolism, many oath-taking members of the Provincial Assembly have shown an unnatural comfort with Hindi in place of the natural choices of Maithili and Nepali. Whither will this blind following of the caste-cult lead them? A sizeable number of elected members, who have a questionable track record despite their primary avatars as social activists and petty traders, are at the helm now but without a vision. The biggest concern they have is securing offices and facilities which are normally considered to be the hallmark of authority.
It will not be surprising if the money sees more compression due to excessive spending on making another layer of the system without charting its further course. A new genre of leadership which emerged with the brush of federalism and identity politics is mostly devoid of the main causes which created a chasm between Kathmandu and Madhes.
While the challenges on the ground are humongous, the new traction is hardly reconciling the diverse interests; thus leading the new experiment on a path of failure. Lack of basic understanding about democracy and democratic experiments among the leadership has been harming the prospects of harmony in the polity and balance in the economy. The mix of bad politics and economics serves no good purpose.
Many more people will probably become disenchanted with the new constitution due to the emerging scenario. One, it disowns the administrative arrangements made through the most practical constitution of 1990, and two, double-crosses the electorates by ushering in another unproductive layer at the provinces, and making disguised political activists ruin the shape of the regions and the country further.
Without entering too deep into polemics where the roles of India and China could be judged through obvious and complex parameters, there is a need for introspection by all those who were seen busy dismantling Nepal’s old political and administrative structures and making things worse. After the presidential system, the provincial governments will make the next ‘blunder’, and this will be hard to justify for even those who are genuinely against the institution of monarchy.
The ‘rise and rise’ of the KP Oli brand of politics and the ‘fall and fall’ of statesmanship is a matter of grave concern, and it should not be seen from any partisan angle. The absolute and comparative decrepitude borne out through the new wave of nationalism and federalism solicits immediate policy therapies. However, going through the time in which we are living today where absurdity is confused with virtue, it seems to be an over-expectation to see many people sailing against the tide.
Gone are the days when Nepal’s political interface with the world’s largest democracy and its closest neighbour and ally (India) used to happen on equal ground, and its leaders (like BP Koirala and others) were revered for their remarkable role at home and in the world. It’s indeed depressing to notice how, over the years, India’s diplomatic mission in Kathmandu has failed to get the real pulse of Nepali democracy and has trusted the people who ruined the prospects.
Though it’s not going to be seamless, India must recognise the harm done by the alternative channels since September 2015. To play safer beyond boundaries, it’s better to reckon the fundamentals on time and act accordingly instead of sending envoys from New Delhi without any stated purpose and planning. Also, to permanently cure the ailing system, it would be worthwhile to rely on the 1990 constitution and seriously review the presidential system and provincial governments.
Thakur is a senior journalist based in New Delhi