Friday, June 1, 2007

New Beginning or Dead End?

After a year of political marathon, the Eight Party Alliance's (EPA) government has reached a dead end. With the CA elections in limbo, the EPA government is rapidly losing its legitimacy to govern and the notion of "New Nepal" is losing its appeal. The inability on the part of the EPA government to announce fresh poll dates has raised a question of legitimacy on part of EPA to govern.

The unmatched enthusiasm pumped among the citizens by the people's revolution-II is being deflated at an unprecedented rate. Due to the mishandling of the opportunity by EPA, the Nepali people have started concluding that nothing has changed except the names at the top. Things have changed both for the rank and files of the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) that were on the run during King Gyanendra's regime and the Maoists that took cover of the nature-forests - to keep their lives and dreams afloat. The biggest beneficiary, however, has been CPN (Maoist) who got a safe landing and leapfrogging opportunity from the darkness of jungles to the corridor of the Singha Durbar.

Needless to say, EPA has tremendously benefited from the people's trust and willingness to rally behind them, but what have people gained? It is high time to balance the book. With the increase in violence, insecurity, and the government's inability to conduct CA elections, the Nepali people who have become consumers of false dreams sold by politicians have started asking themselves: Was people's evolution-II for us or for the politicians whose political careers have been choked by King Gyanendra?

While the hand-picked parliamentarians are drawing fat checks for raising hands to consent on the decisions made by the top leaders of their respective parties, the transition period meant to secure peace and ensure the long-term prosperity of the Nepali people, the populace is laden with violence, chaos, and insecurity. This further complicates the minimum conditions required for conducting CA elections. The question that arises now is how long the interim parliament and the EPA government should be in place before it is deemed that they have lost the consent of the governed? What can they do to buy the required legitimacy to govern, if anything?

Be it before the start of the Maoist insurgency, during the insurgency, or after the safe landing of the Maoists, things are same for the rich and famous and their kids. They had everything to lead a comfortable life and buy their safety. The Maoists did not inflict a scratch on the rich and famous because of their symbiotic relationship that was largely based on the money that they could extract from the privileged class.

As usual, things are normal for the privileged class now. While the sons and daughters of the rich and famous frivolously spend money to sweat themselves out in discos in the capital, the children of poor in the far-flung villages are sweating out of nervousness of not being able to keep their dreams afloat.

Thus, the biggest losers of the ongoing violence, insecurity, and the inability on the part of the government to navigate the nation towards political stability have been the poor and downtrodden populace. The sons and daughters of rich politicians and businessmen can buy one-way ticket to Western countries but what about the children of poor that are forced to waste their precious human life due to the inability of politicians to provide required opportunity to lead a meaningful life?

One of the many reasons why the plight of the indigents is not taken seriously is because most of the politicians have no clue about what it means to be a poor. While some were well off to begin with and are not in a position to understand how debilitating poverty is, others have amassed enough wealth (which would have been impossible if pursued through legal means) and have forgotten those old days whereby they had a hard time meeting basic necessities. Like the majority of politicians, the new entrants in Nepali politics (the Maoists) who successfully sold the dreams of prosperity to the largely illiterate and economically deprived populace, are not doing enough to fulfill peoples' aspirations.

They seem to not realize that their propagandist politics alone will not be of any help when it comes to building an egalitarian nation. They have no well-tested developmental model, no proven strategy to spur economic growth, no clue about how to properly redistribute wealth other than redistributing land, and no desire to secure peace which is a prerequisite to prosperity.

For development to take place there should be peace in the nation. Prachanda's dismissal of existence of other forces such as MPRF and NIFIN and his social workers turned militias are the main obstacles towards securing peace in the nation. Thus, Prachanda's claim that he would turn this largely hungry nation into a prosperous and well-functioning democracy like Switzerland is simply ludicrous. Who in the world would like to invest in a nation where shutdowns of industries by cadres of political parties happen on a mere whim, with intimidation and extortion rampant?

It did not take very long for the gain of mass movement of 1990 to dissipate. Fifteen years and we are back to square one. Hard-earned democracy did not last long because the rent-seeking coalition between business and politics served to fuel corruption and violence in the body politic of Nepal. Easy money earned through illegal means was used to sustain a new class of political elites who remained immune from the forces of law enforcement because of their political status and connection.

Like in the past, the politicians do not appear to be driven by a sense of mission to transform the society in a particular direction this time around too. If not corrected, the lack of developmental vision and the ability to secure peace amongst the current leadership, who do not seem to have learnt lessons from the past, will be compounded by their weak commitment to realize the importance of such a vision. Popular disillusionment is sure to occur like in the past which the Maoists cashed pretty smartly in their favor, mainly due to the failure of the state to deliver expected democratization of local social relations and political authority, continuing poverty and a widening gap between the haves and have-nots.

The only question that kept on lingering in people's mind after the fall of King Gyanendra's regime was, "What would our leaders do differently than they did after the fall of Panchayat regime in 1990 that would strengthen democracy and make Nepal prosperous?" And, our leaders are not doing anything differently even though the political and social landscape is not the same as it was during the early 1990s.

The time is running out for the EPA government. All the constituents of EPA should realize their mistakes and pledge a non confrontational style of politics. For any meaningful change to materialize, the centrist forces should correct their laid-back attitude, understand the need for a changed political landscape, and realize the urgency to work towards fulfilling people's aspirations. As far as the political left is concerned, it should pledge non rhetorical style of politics and stop abusing parliament as an arena for rhetorical exchanges.

It should be rather used as a vehicle for political consensus building. Furthermore, it should find ways to keep its unruly cadres within its grip. It somehow got to teach its cadres rational and civilized ways of protesting. Indulging in immoral acts of burning and destroying public property that we built through the tax payers' money is mockery of our own achievement.

If political leaders fail to understand the gravity of the situation and continued with their old habits, coming generations too will have to fight for democracy again. Failure to deliver development benefits and meet people's aspirations shall invite February 1st over and again in some form or another.

Insurgencies will easily flourish as impoverished societies are hot beds for such movements. The Maoist insurgency by no means is an end to rebellion. The desire to rebel shall stay put until the Eight Party Alliance (EPA) and the subsequent governments in the future are able to ensure peace, prosperity, and pursuit of happiness.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are illegally using Creative Commons-licensed photos from Flickr. You need to have a byline attributing them to their original photographer (ie. the link to the user's Flickr profile). Otherwise, you and this blog are in clear violation of US copyright law.