In disparaging others, ruling party youth leaders follow their political masterOli’s crude witticisms to fend off any attack on him are known but promising politicians taking cue from him only shows the extent of their subservient attitude, analysts say.
When the police behaviour against Dr Govinda KC met with fierce criticism from several quarters earlier this week, at least one set of people was quick to belittle and denigrate the critics—and also the doctor. And that cabal included members of the Nepal Communist Party whose chair KP Sharma Oli is at the helm of the government.
One minister and one of Oli’s advisers appeared on television shows to make some disparaging comments against KC and those who criticised the brute force used on the doctor who was on the ninth day of his 19th fast-unto-death on Tuesday.
Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai used “Looking London, Talking Tokyo”, an alliterative phrase with no actual meaning in English but which is used by some Nepalis to describe misplaced priority, for KC.
“Dr KC does emotional blackmailing, which is not good. I have opposed some of his unnecessary demands even when we were in the opposition. There are different intentions of his demands,” Bhattarai explained in an interview with a news channel.
In an interview with another TV channel, Oli’s press advisor Surya Thapa even alluded that KC could have lost his memory because of old age and getting senile.
Many on social media were quick to question if old age could result in losing analytical power, then KC, at 63, is younger than Oli, who is 69.
Thapa even said that KC keeps on holding his hunger strikes as quickly as shuffling playing cards and questioned if he had reached Jumla to stage the fast-unto-death as part of his “quota” to hold such protests in all the 77 districts.
Ruling party Standing Committee member Bishnu Rijal wrote on Twitter: Regarding Govinda KC: Too much sugar leaves a bitter taste.
All these leaders–Bhattarai, Thapa and Rijal–are the young generation leaders in the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP).
“Bhattarai seemed to be a promising leader. But I am disappointed that his goodwill is on the wane and he himself is the cause,” said Kedar Bhakta Mathema, former vice-chancellor of Tribhuvan University and a social activist, told the Post.
“The way he has expressed his opinions in Dr KC’s case shows he can go to any extent to please his political masters.”
Curt, disparaging, contemptuous and derogatory remarks against the dissenters have become the hallmark of many ruling party leaders lately.
They do not hesitate to express their disdain for the citizens and the media—and they do it more often publicly, in a sign that analysts say shows how drunk they are with power.
In the same television interview where he disparaged KC, Thapa described those people who were making a pitch for another term for Kulman Ghising as the chief of the Nepal Electricity Authority as “pakhe”—pronounced paa-khey. The derogatory lexicon in Nepali is also used to describe someone as “uncivilised” or a “dunderhead”. Thapa described those backing Ghising as the ones who are not giving balanced views and perspectives. After criticism, Thapa took to Twitter to explain that he said “ek pakhe”, instead of “pakhe”, to mean “one-sided”. However, there is no dictionary meaning to suggest so. His Twitter clarification too smacks of arrogance, though, where he says those misconstruing him are some elements “mobilised by others.”
Political analysts say it’s no wonder that those from the younger generation are following the footsteps of their senior leaders.
“This is very unfortunate for the country that the younger generation is taking a page from the playbook of their senior leaders, who have invariably failed to deliver,” Chandra Dev Bhatta, who writes political commentaries for Kantipur, the Post’s sister paper, told the Post.
Communist leaders in Nepal have been historically viewed as the ones with better oratory skills than those from other parties. The late Madan Bhandari was known as an excellent speaker and master politician—once to be recognised as Marx of Nepal by the celebrated Newsweek magazine. Oli too does hold the people’s attention but only with his crude witticisms. While Bhandari maintained decorum and made some harshest of comments with panache, Oli often throws tongue-in-cheek remarks, some of which are quite slighting and scathing.
Political commentators say various ruling party leaders seem to be taking a leaf out of Oli’s book when it comes to lashing out at their opponents or opposing voices.
Oli has a tendency to seize every opportunity to ridicule others. For instance, on June 10, in a meeting of the House of Representatives, Oli claimed that Nepalis have stronger immune systems.
Opposition lawmaker Gagan Thapa from the Nepali Congress asked Oli, “Who has said that Nepalis have greater immunity powers?” in an attempt to seek if there is any scientific basis to the prime minister’s argument.
Oli not only made light of the question but derided the lawmaker, saying, “A parliamentarian just asked me who said Nepalis have greater immunity powers. Did not you hear me? I said it, just a while ago.”
At times, it looks like ruling party leaders and some ministers are speaking, but words belong not to them but their master–Oli.
On July 12, in response to criticism the authorities were facing for their failure to contain the coronavirus, Health Minister Bhanubhakta Dhakal said that those who didn’t see how well the government was responding to the virus “have a cataract”.
A month later, on August 11, the day Hindu festival Krishna Janmastami was being celebrated, Dhakal said he wished Lord Krishna would give all those wisdom who didn’t see the good efforts by the government.
Observers say that in a democracy, the public holds the right to question the government. The government of the day cannot show contempt for the public merely for criticising it on important issues, according to them.
Hari Roka, a political economist, said the people will back the youth leadership only when they perform their duties well.
“Most of our youth leaders have become power-hungry,” said Roka. “They seem to be ready to go to any extent and they often don’t hesitate to stoop too low to defend the leadership and please their masters, as they want to be in power.”
Bhattarai, the tourism minister, makes a good example.
When he was appointed tourism minister in July last year, the Post had described him as a “charismatic youth leader”. His leadership skills since his student politics days were well known. He evoked charm.
Before his appointment, he was seen as an opposition leader within the ruling party, who would not mince words to criticise his own leadership.
Immediately after the results of the 2017 general elections, Bhattarai on December 31, 2018 said leaders Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal should retire and make way for youths. He was of the view that only youth leaders can live up to the people’s expectations.
Since his appointment as a minister, Bhattarai, however, has made a volte face. As a minister, he has to defend his government, but at times he appears to be trying to defend the indefensible, according to analysts.
“Politics is about conviction. But it does not look like our youth leaders are doing politics of conviction,” said Bhatta, the political commentator. “Had that been the case, they would not have been involved in such a naked display of subservience and servility when it came to defending their leadership.”