Po­lit­i­cal Preda­tors

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

In Nepal, in­di­vid­ual in­ter­ests in­spire laws more than any­thing else. This came un­der sharp crit­i­cism when the pro­posal for giv­ing pen­sions and other fa­cil­i­ties to for­mer par­lia­men­tar­i­ans came up for dis­cus­sion the other week. This came shortly af­ter a new law was passed, un­der which those con­victed of crime and cor­rup­tion are barred from con­test­ing elec­tions. Pub­lic im­pres­sion can­not be just wished away by in­vok­ing the tech­ni­cal­ity of the ab­sence of any “proof” re­gard­ing the is­sue of some reg­u­la­tions be­ing in­spired purely to tar­get spe­cific in­di­vid­u­als in the im­me­di­ate fu­ture. The task is for the var­i­ous civil so­ci­ety “lead­ers” to come up with im­par­tial opin­ions. TAR­GETED TRIO: Three high pro­file lead­ers came for dis­cus­sion in con­nec­tion with the above-men­tioned is­sue. Khum Ba­hadur Khadka, Chi­ran­jivi Wa­gle and Jaya Prakash Gupta, who were min­is­ters mul­ti­ple times rep­re­sent­ing Nepali Congress, are seen as be­ing vic­timised for the po­ten­tial threat they posed to po­lit­i­cal par­ties in fac­tions. On top of the list, Khadka wields a strong in­flu­ence on a size­able sec­tion of the Congress. Wa­gle is a gone case. Gupta could have some clout among vot­ers. As an or­gan­iser, Khadka is skill­ful to the ex­tent that Prime Min­is­ter Sher Ba­hadur sim­ply can­not af­ford to ig­nore him when it comes to mak­ing ap­point­ments within the party or­gan­i­sa­tion or the for­ma­tion of gov­ern­ment. The am­bi­tious Home Min­is­ter Bi­mal­en­dra Nidhi, who is hob­nob­bing with groups with in­ter­ests his own party would not sup­port openly as well as with oth­ers claim­ing to up­hold demo­cratic val­ues, is hunt­ing with the hounds but does not stop run­ning with the rab­bits. Ad­mit­tedly, Khadka, Wa­gle and Gupta were con­victed in the court of law for cor­rupt prac­tices. The is­sue is more than that. So per­va­sive is cor­rup­tion here that the ques­tion is not who are cor­rupt but who re­ally are not. There are nu­mer­ous politi­cians, bu­reau­crats and many more in var­i­ous sec­tors that ooze with enor­mous vol­umes of riches and flaunt life­styles far dis­pro­por­tion­ate to their known means of earn­ings. Politi­cians rarely get con­victed for cor­rup­tion in Nepal, though it is no state se­cret that with­out po­lit­i­cal pa­tron­age ram­pant cor­rup­tion could not have thrived for so many years. Po­lit­i­cal lead­ers are rarely booked for amass­ing wealth far in ex­cess of their known sources of in­come or their and their par­ents' tax records. Since the 1990s, politi­cians have de­vel­oped iron-clad shield plus peer net­work­ing for en­sur­ing pro­tec­tion to one an­other, whichever party might be in power. If a trend to­ward book­ing politi­cians on charges of cor­rup­tion were to gather mo­men­tum, they would run hel­ter-skel­ter des­per­ately for pa­tron­age and pro­tec­tion. The pub­lic all along is rudely put to wit­ness the im­punity this brings about. Maoist supremo Pushpa Ka­mal Da­hal the other day was nos­tal­gic of the days when his rank and file “in­spired great fear”, whereas they were later to bear with the times in be­ing dis­missed as a has-been. How­ever, Da­hal, per­haps to up­lift the party cadre's morale, claimed that, his party work­ers have “of late, be­gun strik­ing fear in oth­ers”. He also lamented that “those who placed a price on Maoists' head have be­come strong now”. That's life, Com­rade Chair­man Da­hal! Look at yours and your se­niors' roller-coaster life­style sharply brought to the fore of pub­lic talk: “From chap­pal to ma­hal” [from slip­pers to man­sions]. At a party meet­ing in Au­gust, Da­hal came down heav­ily on party mem­bers who had be­gun to in­flate their self-im­por­tance and role in the or­gan­i­sa­tion, as if they were in­dis­pens­able. He re­minded that there were many like them in the past, who met with crush­ing re­sults when they over­stretched they eluded them­selves into con­sid­er­ing them­selves more im­por­tant than col­lec­tive will of the party. SORRY STATE: That was Da­hal's warn­ing as well as ad­vice to his party mem­bers. It was also a re­luc­tant ad­mis­sion that not all is well in the party. Dis­sent is a run­ning is­sue in the Maoist Cen­tre. Any hint of greener pas­ture on the other side of the fence threat­ens to cre­ate a split, which would not be sur­pris­ing at all, given the or­gan­i­sa­tion's de­clin­ing for­tune in the lo­cal elec­tions, de­spite pa­thet­i­cally turn­ing to the coat­tails of the Nepali Congress, the party that had dan­gled ran­som money on the heads of Maoist lead­ers in the past. Da­hal in Septem­ber de­clared his in­ten­tion of con­test­ing the gen­eral elec­tions in De­cem­ber from a con­stituency in Chit­wan, hoped to cozy-up with Deuba and his Congress for an elec­tion tie-up. Although Da­hal now has signed a poll pact with the main op­po­si­tion CPN (UML), he in­sists that his party mem­bers con­tinue in the Deuba gov­ern­ment, the equa­tion has changed. All along, how­ever, nei­ther po­lit­i­cal lead­ers nor “youth lead­ers” speak about check­ing cor­rup­tion for fear of trig­ger­ing scorn and laugh­ter from a pub­lic fed up with their stale rhetoric and un­con­vinc­ing prom­ises. Very dis­ap­point­ing is that the same old faces are likely to dot the can­di­dates' list of all “ma­jor par­ties”. With­out an ef­fec­tive check on cor­rup­tion, the na­tion will not move for­ward; only the cor­rupt and even crim­i­nal el­e­ments will ben­e­fit from such sorry state.

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