Antsi­ness in an un­set­tled arena

People's Review - - COMMENTARY -

Can­dor is not un­char­ac­ter­is­tic of Dr. Babu­ram Bhat­tarai when it comes to pub­lic pro­nounce­ments. It’s just that our for­mer prime min­is­ter usu­ally trains it on those gov­ern­ing us. This time he has chal­lenged the gov­erned to as­sume our por­tion of cul­pa­bil­ity for the ram­pant mal-gov­er­nance we have been com­plain­ing about.

Para­phras­ing words var­i­ously at­trib­uted to the likes of Joseph de Maistre and Alexis de Toc­queville, Dr. Bhat­tarai os­ten­si­bly lim­ited his re­marks to the on­go­ing cleanup cam­paign in and around the Ring Road. (Don’t ex­pect the gov­ern­ment to keep pick­ing up ev­ery ci­garette butt you aban­don, or some­thing.) His col­leagues in the po­lit­i­cal fra­ter­nity are prob­a­bly re­lieved that some­one has fi­nally told us as it is.

Granted, it is dif­fi­cult to ac­knowl­edge – much less ap­pre­ci­ate – the ex­as­per­a­tion col­lec­tively grip­ping our po­lit­i­cal class. Af­ter all, we choose them to do what they promise to do and pay them quite de­cently for try­ing. In ad­di­tion, our taxes fund their hous­ing, travel, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and every­thing else they need to do their job prop­erly.

Top, mid-level and rookie lead­ers alike pros­per in the pub­lic lime­light to the point that many end up mak­ing a ca­reer out of pub­lic ser­vice. If brick­bats hap­pen to ex­ceed the bou­quets they get, it’s more than likely be­cause they aren’t do­ing a won­der­ful job. Con­sider things from the politi­cians’ point of view, though. Sure, vot­ers elect them to do their as­signed job. But what kind of job is it? It’s hard to be held ac­count­able to spe­cific and bind­ing pledges when the elec­torate doesn’t know what it wants. Over the last seven decades, we’ve been strug­gling to fig­ure out the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem we can live with. In the na­tional trial-and-er­ror mode, maybe the best politi­cians can do is try and err? To­day a uni­fied com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment en­joy­ing a two-thirds ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment can’t seem to sus­tain the repub­li­can, fed­eral and sec­u­lar ed­i­fice that is new Nepal. We can blame Oli, Da­hal et al all we want for this sor­did state of af­fairs, but they can take only their share of the re­spon­si­bil­ity. For ev­ery eg­ghead who saw in this three-pronged pre­scrip­tion a cure-all for our ac­cu­mu­lated ills, there was an­other who coun­seled ex­treme cau­tion. Yet new­ness was so eclec­tic a propo­si­tion that we missed it neb­u­lous­ness. If Dr. Bhat­tarai has been able to es­tab­lish him­self as the prime sus­tainer of the eter­nal­ness of new­ness, it’s be­cause our en­trenched per­plex­ity has al­lowed him to shift the goal­posts with ut­most ease.

It took a decade and two con­stituent as­sem­blies for our po­lit­i­cal class to pro­duce this con­sti­tu­tion. We may not have names and cap­i­tals for ev­ery prov­ince yet, but we do have a ba­sic law that seems to be func­tion­ing amid all the do­mes­tic ac­ri­mony and geopo­lit­i­cal jock­ey­ing.

In­stead of con­tem­plat­ing ways of do­ing things bet­ter, many of us are hav­ing sec­ond thoughts about the very en­ter­prise. Cal­lous as they might seem, the po­lit­i­cal class can’t call us out. So they are go­ing through the mo­tions: in­ter­nal party con­fer­ences, ex­ter­nal war of words and in­el­e­gant pledges to per­form bet­ter.

No, our politi­cians don’t have the temer­ity to re­quest hard­ship al­lowances and prob­a­bly never will. A lit­tle ap­pre­ci­a­tion would be nice, though.

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