Sunday, November 18, 2007

Freedom to be unaccountable

Never in the history of the nation before, were we so weak, so vulnerable, and so helpless like we are now. The reason behind our misery is that we have faulty institutions, unaccountable and irresponsible politicians. Be it home grown political parties or institutions such as the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) set up supposedly for our betterment by the external players, they all are malfunctioning either by design or by default. How does it matter whether it is by design or default as long as it is malfunctioning?

Surprisingly, every institution operating within the geographical boundary of Nepal wants more power and a greater role for themselves. Forget about the political parties that are fighting for themselves rather than poor Nepali citizen for a second, UNMIN too is demanding a greater role now. UNMIN now wants to get involved in what Martin calls as a "security sector reform." Forgetting UNMIN's dismal performance in "insecurity sector reform" (harvesting weapons from the Maoists and getting the real guerillas inside the camp), Martin now wants venture in another arena. What a joke!

By housing underage children and letting the real guerillas that wreaked havoc on peace and security of the nation off the hook, Martin's UNMIN has not only bled the state exchequer but also seriously weakened the security situation. So, the time has come to remind Martin that he should be focusing on the job at hand and execute it satisfactorily rather than seeking a greater role. He got to be told -- do what you are supposed to do well first. It does not make any sense to give additional responsibilities to those who perform a second class job.

As far as political parties are concerned, they are still busy engaging themselves in deal-based politics. The Nepali Congress (NC) longs for bygone era whereby it enjoyed absolute majority and did much less than what it actually could do to change the face of this hungry nation.

During the NC's rule, while the party leaders were getting millionaires by abusing power, rural populace in hinterland were getting brainwashed for armed struggle. NC's top brass didn't care about either of those. NC's top brass, most of who grew up and got wiser reading "Hindustan times" and "Dainik Jagaran" newspapers in Banaras might have thought that, with newfound money and muscle power, like in India, they would remain unchallenged forever. Needless to say, they cared least about the ideological decay.

In the changed political context, the NC, as an institution has nothing new to offer. It neither has enough new faces that can stand up and vouch for social democratic values and pluralism, nor can it utilize the same old tainted faces that abused the power to enrich themselves to energize the democratic base.

The only card that the NC has and which might work well in its favor is, standing up against the political left's grand design to choke people's freedom. There are millions in Nepal that are nervous about the political left's grand design to laden people's democracy.

So, the NC still has a space to operate and a chance to regain its past glory and popular backing. The rank-and-files within the NC should empathize with the suffering of the people rather than surrendering its political space forever for the sake of coalition. The likes of Krishna Sitaula within the NC are playing the politics of fear to bolster their own political footings at the cost of ideology and democracy. They are yet to realize that there is no alternative to the politics of ideology based struggle.

The CPN (Maoist) had a perfect opportunity to become a dominant player in the national politics, which they completely blew off. People had already seen and become fed up off the NC and the UML's misrule. The enormous success that the Maoists achieved in their early days of struggle was partly because the major political parties had failed to fulfill people's aspirations. People wanted a change and the Maoists had to some extent convinced people that they are for a change. The blunder that the Maoists made was that they tried replicating the same formula that Mao had experimented half a century ago even after signing the 12-point agreement. What they failed to understand is that, out of many things, the success of political formula is contingent upon time and space.

There was no need for converting People's Liberation Army (PLA) into a Young Communist League (YCL) and trying to do what Mao did half a century ago after the safe landing. This is mainly because, in the current geopolitical context, you cannot rule by threatening and discouraging people.

Forget about YCL, even the entire PLA will not be able to capture the power and hang in there forever. It is simply not feasible. So, it was a gross miscalculation on the part of the Maoist leaders to try to replicate the same tactics adopted by Mao in China, where people had no clue about democracy and democratic rights unlike in the modern day Nepal. All it needed was, tongue of the UML, which can rotate 360 degrees and adherence to democratic principles. Sooner or later, it would have come to come the power. It took Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) almost 20 years to come to capture power in Delhi. In politics, patience pays off.

For Prachanda and Babu Ram Bhattarai, the ongoing struggle might be an ideological one, but there are tons in their party, for whom, insurgency is a business opportunity. They virtually had nothing to begin with but have every thing -- muscle power and money now. For the sake of their newfound status and money, they will do everything to prolong the war. For them, war and insecurity has economic incentives. Plus, their families are comparatively safe. Why would they care about the safety of others and over all economic progress of the nation, which in their eyes is, run by feudal elites?

Time has come to do a real cost benefit analysis. Is it worth, or for that matter even possible, to keep the dreams of capturing the state alive among the cadres when the reality is that, an ambassador of a neighboring country can make you all crawl to his office to listen to his dictates?

The UML is the one that is in the most awkward position and will be the biggest loser if it doesn't mend its ways. By succumbing to the pressure of extreme left leaning ideologues within the party and tailgating the Maoists, the UML is losing both its support at home and credibility abroad. Why should UML's cadres remain on board when there is no difference between their party and the Maoist party? Sooner or later, they will join the one that is enjoying the limelight rather than guarding a sinking ship. From the stand point of communist ideologues, it makes no sense. Thus, by adhering to the politics of fence-sitting, the UML is doing a disservice to itself and its cadres. It should move away from a politics of fence-sitting to one of active political engagement if it wants to protect its credibility and further erosion of its political base.

Last but not the least, the problem lies within us and we should seek solution from within. The crux of problem is that, political parties want to enjoy power without being held responsible to the constituents. Surprisingly, they want to remain in power forever without seeking people's mandate. There is very little that foreigners on ground and consultants that charge hefty amount can do when it comes to correcting such self-serving behavior of Nepali politicians. Unless the freedom to be irresponsible and unaccountable is curbed, the ongoing mess will continue in some form or the other. Does anyone have a better idea on how to curb the existing irresponsibility and unaccountability amongst the Nepali politicians?

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