Monday, August 11, 2008

From freefall to a basket case?

It's been four months since the Constituent Assembly (CA) election was held and we still don't have a legitimate government. Is it because the proportional representation system has started producing disproportionate results or because the self-portrayed progressives have resorted to the same old tricks played during the coalition era of the past decades?

If the government formation takes four months, how long will it take to undo the failures of the past governments and deliver the dividends of democracy? With this pace, when will the wholesale transformation of Nepal's political and social foundation and the apparent consensus be achieved between various ethnic groups in Nepal?

As usual, no political party is ready to take the responsibility for the current political impasse. Accountability has evaporated in countless networks, bargaining and search for compromises. Shouldn't someone somewhere be responsible for the current state of affairs?

A daughter of noted neurosurgeon was abducted in broad day light from the heart of the capital. Unable to rely on the professional ability of the security apparatus, the hapless father pays multi-million rupees in ransom for the safe release of his sibling. Dr Devkota's willingness to pay ransom to the abductors is an example of erosion of people's faith in government's ability to solve their problems. This is one among hundreds if not thousands of cases happening every month.

Our so-called intellectuals get baffled when high profile abduction cases like the one involving the daughter of Dr Upendra Devkota occur. Like an ignorant little child who suddenly wakes up after a bad dream, they start questioning the existence of the nation's security apparatus and the responsibility of the Home Ministry. Anyone keeping a close tab on Nepal can easily tell that the law and order situation in the country is in a shambles and it has been so for a long time now. It certainly did not happen overnight for anyone to miss it, did it? What appears as if the abduction of Dr Devkota's daughter was the first ripple in a perfectly calm lake? The lake has been muddied and unsettled for a long time now. It is just that in order to appear politically correct some of us chose not to question the abilities of the guards responsible to keep the lake clean and healthy.

We live in a country where the vice-president of the country flouts court order, home minister overlooks crimes (killers of Jitendra Sah and Ram Hari Shrestha are still at large) and the prime minister, instead of firing the incompetent home minister, uses him as his emissary. Lawlessness starts from the top and trickles down to the common man. Criminals at the bottom of this food chain of lawlessness are taking every opportunity to take the law into their hands because that is the example leaders are leading with.

The major political parties are intoxicated by foul poison of power and this is evidenced by their disgraceful attitude towards formation of the new government and writing a constitution. From old guards of Nepali politics to the new entrants like the Maoists, MPRF, and TMLP, political honesty is something that is seriously lacking. Moral nudity on part of the Maoists has become so apparent that it is hard to trust their words.

Needless to say, they were not trustworthy to begin with. When the chances of getting into the power brightens, they suggest the return of all seized properties and curbing illegal acts of their brigade of brigands (YCL), but as soon as their chances of clinching to the power fades, their threat-laden statements start flying in all directions. They get verbal diarrhea.

It is not only the Maoists that have mastered the art of deal making. Upendra Yadav has picked it in a relatively shorter period of time. He is ready to join hands with anyone and everyone so long as he gets his share. The Maoists' call for having a Madhesi president and a Pahadi vice-president was a logical one, but for Upendra Yadav, having his man as a vice-president was more important than ensuring ethnic balance in the top most posts of the land. For him, inclusion of other ethnic groups is irrelevant. So long as the process ensures the inclusion of the members of his vote bank, ethnic empowerment is on the roll!

In order to minimize the dissent that arises from the incompetence on the part of politicians, the political parties have divided the nation along political ideology and ethnicity. And with each passing day, the people are getting sucked into this game plan devised by our politicians to cover up their incompetence and enhance their own political agendas. If a Madhesi intellectual raises a red flag against functioning of Madhesi leaders, he is immediately branded as a traitor. He becomes an instant enemy of his community. Many Madhesis dislike the president simply because, in their eyes, he is not Madhesi enough. His clarion call for national unity is in collision course with agendas pursued by those that do not see anything wrong with vice-president taking oath in Hindi even though it is unconstitutional. If something is unconstitutional, it is unlawful. And, that is how it ought to be.

How we got here and where are we headed? Many of us decided not to raise our voice against the failures of our politicians because our beloved politicians have created an environment whereby anyone, who questions their ability to handle the situation well automatically falls into a least wanted category-status quoists. Is it finally time to realize that Bollywood-type happy ending is not something that happens in African-style drama?

Unless the people rise and make their voice heard, politicians are not going to mend their ways. If we continue to remain divided, we may lose any chances that we might have from this point onwards to emerge as a functional democracy and may end up as a basket case of Asia.

Nepal, in every sense, is a nation under construction. The depth and scale of the transformation taking place in every dimension of Nepal's social, economic, and political lives is very rapid and difficult for even experts to comprehend. The ongoing experiment of building a "New Nepal" if handled properly could be one of the most successful developments in the history of the nation. But if it fails, the consequences for Nepal could be tragic, and possibly catastrophic.


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