Recent graft charges and subsequent debate indicate erosion of political cultureRuling and opposition parties squabble over anti-corruption watchdog’s decision, but none is talking about ways to root out corruption.
Tika R Pradhan
The ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) is treating the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority as one of the agencies under the government, while the primary opposition Nepali Congress is griping about the commission working at the behest of the current dispensation. The government is facing criticism for using the anti-graft agency to protect some ruling party leaders, while the primary opposition has accused it of being guided by vendetta.
Political analysts say the situation the country is facing today is an outcome of degrading political values.
“What’s happening today is because of the gradual erosion of political culture,” said Rajendra Maharjan, a political commentator. “Corruption has been deeply rooted in this country and none of the parties over the years tried to root it out; instead politicians have been involved in corruption.”
The recent case that has put the spotlight on the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority is related to the Lalita Niwas land grab scam.
The anti-graft agency on Wednesday filed corruption cases against 175 individuals. One of the persons indicted is Bijay Kumar Gachhadar, a Nepali Congress leader.
The Congress party has objected to the move of implicating Gachhadar, saying the anti-corruption watchdog worked at the government’s behest. The ruling party has stood in defence of the commission, which has exonerated its General Secretary Bishnu Poudel and his son Nabin Poudel.
The ruling party has claimed that the anti-graft agency did not have grounds to indict Nabin, who had bought eight anna (254.32 sq metres) of land in Lalita Niwas. The anti-graft body has not filed charges against two former prime ministers—Madhav Kumar Nepal and Baburam Bhattarai. Nepal is a senior leader of the ruling communist party.
A ruling party leader said that even during the recently concluded Central Committee meeting, members had raised questions about several leaders’ properties, moral conduct and political values.
“I myself questioned the leadership about the moral degradation, lack of discipline and party leaders’ penchant for amassing property,” Lekhnath Neupane, a central member, told the Post. “I was just trying to draw the leadership’s attention to the erosion of political culture. But I don’t think the party will do anything about it.”
Analysts say the problem is not limited to the party that is currently ruling; it’s prevalent across the spectrum. That’s why there are not many takers when the Nepali Congress raises its voice against the culture of corruption and degrading political values.
“Nepali politicians over the years never bothered to work to strengthen the rule of law,” said Balram KC, a former Supreme Court justice. “Politicians in Nepal failed to espouse the fact that politics should be aimed at serving a larger public cause. They were rather involved in misusing resources.”
Ever since the restoration of democracy in 1990, the country has been ruled by the existing crop of leaders—from the CPN-UML, which is now Nepal Communist Party after the merger with the Maoists, and the Nepali Congress.
Political up-manship led to the falling of governments one after another for years, depriving the people of a stable government that could run for the full term. The 2017 elections, two years after the constitution that ushered in republicanism, gave a huge mandate to the Nepal Communist Party.
But by now, there has been so much of debilitating erosion in the political culture and systems seem broken beyond repair, according to analysts.
Former justice KC said Nepali leaders have lost their right to rule. “They have been involved in extractive politics over the years and whenever they find themselves in trouble, they blame the system and even the constitution, if that suits them.”