Mer­chants of Elec­toral Man­date

People's Review - - LEADER - BY P. KHAREL

In the 1960 elec­tion cam­paign, John F. Kennedy was crit­i­cised as be­ing a mil­lion­aire with­out em­pa­thy for the wel­fare of oth­ers, and hence not fit to be­come the pres­i­dent of the United States. Kennedy, how­ever, man­aged to breast past the race to the Oval Of­fice. Things have changed dras­ti­cally ever since. No Amer­i­can cit­i­zen, to­day, with modest fi­nan­cial means can re­al­is­ti­cally hope to pre­side over the White House. Elec­tions are in­creas­ingly be­com­ing ex­tremely ex­pen­sive. Nepal can be a model for the rest of the world as to how a peace-lov­ing na­tion liv­ing most har­mo­niously be­tween two ide­o­log­i­cally op­posed na­tions with the world's two largest pop­u­la­tions can be rocked by a po­lit­i­cal mess that has deep­ened the prob­lems of un­em­ploy­ment, im­punity and openly ram­pant cor­rup­tion right up to the core high places.

MONEY-DRIVEN: Can­di­dates spend crores of ru­pees in the first­past-the-post elec­tions. Mafia el­e­ments also man­age ob­tain­ing party tick­ets for di­rect polls or suc­ceed in hav­ing their names in­serted se­curely in the list of pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion. Three mil­lion ru­pees as elec­tion fund is con­sid­ered to be clean and modest in a poverty-stricken like ours who would not be able to move things an inch with­out for­eign money. And for­eign aid money is what cor­rupts our politi­cians, min­is­ters, bu­reau­crats and who have you. The mech­a­nism of pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion has be­come a ve­hi­cle for riff-raff mak­ing pas­sage to the ex­alted hall of “peo­ple's lead­ers”. Go­ing by sec­tions of “A” Class press re­ports, du­bi­ous char­ac­ters and prof­i­teers have made it to par­lia­men­tary precincts. The 2015 Con­sti­tu­tion, “en­dorsed by 90 per cent of the peo­ple”, has ut­terly failed to re­store the po­lit­i­cal nor­malcy de­railed by the very par­ties that have held the reins of power these past 11 years. Strong voices call­ing for ma­jor amend­ments to the con­sti­tu­tion con­tinue un­abated, un­der­scor­ing bla­tant dis­re­gard to Nepali ground re­al­ity, core val­ues as a sov­er­eign na­tion and in­her­ent pop­u­lar as­pi­ra­tions. If an­a­lysts worth of any value con­clude that most Nepalis do not want their coun­try to be de­clared a “Hindu State”, they no longer need to ven­ture into analysing and as­sess­ing events. In a true mul­ti­party democ­racy, right to de­bate and dis­sent are ex­pected, en­cour­aged and al­lowed with alacrity. In “lok­tantrik” Nepal, one is free to air one's voice with­out fear of be­ing ar­rested but there are nu­mer­ous other con­se­quences that are bound to hit the dis­sent­ing voice. Op­por­tu­nity apartheid is a state­ment of fact in the func­tion­ing of “lok­tantrik” regime.

DIS­PLAY OF DE­CEIT: Elec­tions in Nepal are won not through in­for­ma­tion but dis­in­for­ma­tion and, most im­por­tantly, money power. More­over, few faces and fam­i­lies mo­nop­o­lise dis­tri­bu­tion of tick­ets. In the process, prof­i­teers, “goons” and cor­rupt also ob­tain tick­ets from all ma­jor par­ties of dif­fer­ent stripes. One woman MP a cou­ple of years ago ac­cused sev­eral se­nior lead­ers of the party that nom­i­nated her to the “Con­stituent As­sem­bly-Leg­is­la­ture” hav­ing been bribed to en­snare the seat. Par­ti­san sec­tions of the press have very lit­tle to of­fer by way of fair cov­er­age. Di­ver­sity in opin­ions finds lit­tle or no space. Dis­in­for­ma­tion is a weapon widely in use to down­grade and re­vile op­po­nents and cre­ate neg­a­tivism. Some of the “se­nior” jour­nal­ists are po­lit­i­cal party ac­tivists af­fil­i­ated with pub­lic­ity de­part­ments fo­cus­ing on, for in­stance, gen­eral, pro­vin­cial and lo­cal elec­tions. They loy­ally, rather blindly, abide by the di­rec­tives is­sued by the party bosses. Shekhar Koirala, Nepali Congress leader, in an in­ter­view to The Ris­ing Nepal the other week, con­fessed: “In Nepal's pol­i­tics, there is no ethics.” Re­lent­less fac­tion-fight­ing, in­tra-fac­tion feud, bend­ing or­gan­i­sa­tional rules by those at the helm, split­ting par­ties for per­sonal am­bi­tions have fu­elled cor­rup­tion to new heights. Four-time Prime Min­is­ter Sher Ba­hadur Deuba has a his­tory of nur­tur­ing fac­tion, split­ting Nepali Congress, only to re­turn to the mother group. He also has the du­bi­ous record of dis­solv­ing par­lia­ment in 2001 but back­ing out of the promised poll sched­ule and yet claim­ing premier­ship not­with­stand­ing the in­com­pe­tency. Had he been al­lowed to con­tinue, it would have set a most un­demo­cratic prece­dent that a prime min­is­ter can dis­solve par­lia­ment, prom­ise elec­tions and then de­fer the same. UML's chief K.P. Oli-Maoist supremo Pushpa Ka­mal Da­hal re­la­tion­ship is all smiles on the sur­face; but ri­valry on the is­sue of lead­er­ship in the post-elec­tion sce­nario runs fast and fu­ri­ous just be­neath the sur­face, stoked by cronies. Pub­licly they are close­mouthed on their dif­fer­ences, skat­ing as they are on thin ice. Chief of Naya Shakti, Babu­ram Bhat­tarai's po­lit­i­cal jay­walk­ing makes his own sup­port­ers cringe when hav­ing to de­fend the “in­tel­lec­tual” for­mer prime min­is­ter's fick­le­ness. NC prom­ises “re­nais­sance”, UML and Maoists of the “New Nepal” blus­ter com­bine to vow serv­ing “na­tional” in­ter­ests, and Naya Shakti pledges “pol­i­tics for economic pros­per­ity”. For­mer pan­chas cry hoarse in sup­port of Nepal as a “Hindu State” and turn coy about fed­er­al­ism and con­sti­tu­tional monar­chy which they an­chored on other oc­ca­sions. With such char­ac­ters and par­ties set to re­tain their stran­gle­hold on power once again, what's the fu­ture of Nepalis in gen­eral? We get the lead­ers we de­serve in our pas­siv­ity. The an­swer should be par­tially known by next month.

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