Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spoilers of the democratic drive

Maoists in Nepal have in the past, with greater share in power politics, done immeasurable harm to the chances of healthy democratic movements in that country. They have unfailingly and deliberately created problems for the Government

Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as Prachanda, is a worried man these days, principally coloured in red — not for the lost ideological claim of his party, but because his command and credibility inside the party and in national politics is on the wane.

He has kept mum for months after the humiliating performance of his party in the 2013 parliamentary election. But after the customary soul searching, he is now trying to reunite the different Maoists camps and revive the party’s character in its rank and file.

In this endeavour, Prachanda is looking to the working class and the marginalised sections of society but he has also almost given up on his former colleague and now CPN(Maoist) chairman Mohan Baidya. This is his version of struggle for survival, but while doing this he has displayed his and indeed his party’s deep rooted desperation towards the new developments in Nepali national politics.

Another big factor is Mr Baburam Bhattarai — a powerful Maoist comrade who turned dubious to match Prachanda’s ambitions. There are open theories about their dualism in public life and none are refuted by these two giant leaders of the Himalayan nation. Mao is not alive but it seems like these two leaders believe in the old saying that ‘China’s leader is our leader’.

So much like Mao, they too, time and again, have committed follies, cheated the poor Nepali people of their aspirations, and damaged the delicate democratic fabric of Nepal.

Nevertheless, it will be wrong to say that Nepal doesn’t have place to accommodate radicals. But it is the wrong moves of the radicals, which have falsified the conception of progressive political manoeuvring. This amounts to a big setback for a democracy that is still trying to cross many hurdles.

Since 1996, when Maoism formally haunted the nation, almost two decades in Nepal have been wasted. Governance is broken, infrastructure is decaying, industry is in a mess — and the people are fleeing to Gulf countries where they live perilous lives.

Who are these Maoists representing then? Why they are still sticking with their false ‘ism’s and not focussing on national issues that are getting more serious day by day? In recent years, outbound human trafficking from Nepal has seen unbelievably high. Abroad, Nepalis live in a kind of exile and are routinely exploited.

Barring the elite, it is tough to find a Nepali who lives in dignified state. This was not the case earlier when Nepal was still poor but at least its political leadership had better control. Still, there has hardly been a ‘golden phase’ in Nepal.

Maoism was a stream forced to flow in an authoritarian China, where democratic tributaries were seen as rival counter-currents. It kept revising over the years in the country of its origin and, so cunningly, that it made China not only a closely-guarded, ruthless communist regime but also amusingly a hub of crony capitalism as well.

So, today, many communist leaders from China find themselves on the Forbes billionaire list even if their socialistic convictions stop them from making flashy style statements.

Sadly, this kind of an unhealthy cocktail of social and economic policies is being seen as the cure that can fix the ills of socio-economic disparity in Nepal. However, this will be at the cost of democracy, that will otherwise benefit the masses, unless the leaders turn into looters of resources. Such endemic tussles are, of course, long-standing. And resolving them is perhaps the toughest challenge for democracy.

Writing on Nepal’s last two decades appears tough, given how fast-evolving trends and developments boggle the commentator’s mind. One can see endless political activity and the unstoppable movement towards factionalism as well as the lust to grab the top seat of power, even if for a short while.

The Maoists brought these changes with bigger effect, and in the course of time, their brand of politics was borrowed by the old parties and narrowly-shaped the Madhesi and ethnic groups. And within this flurry of opportunistic moves, Nepali democracy has suffered. It has never recovered enough to support the country’s progress in different areas.

In the past, the Maoists, who then had a greater share in power politics, did immeasurable harm to the chances of healthy democratic movements in the country. Even now, they are creating trouble for the existing Government run by Mr Sushil Koirala.

It will be worthwhile to recall that Prime Minister Koirala is not a conventional representative of the Koirala family, rather he is detached from the aura of power. He has given the mandate to lead; he has not fought for it.

But his success is doubtful. The Constitution-drafting process is threatened by a motley group of Maoist comrades and it is unlikely that they will allow Nepal to stay the democratic course. The Maoists mock Nepali democracy and democracy here betrays masses and their humane expectations. On the other side of the tunnel, there seems to be no light.

Tough times will remain in this country that has no king but is not free from king-size maladies. And for that, the people cannot be blamed for an error of judgement as they were always without better choices.
-Atul K Thakur
(Published in The Pioneer on March25,2014)

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