Nepali Times Asian Paints
Politics for politics' sake


Politics gets a bad rap because its practitioners are generally so self-centred, power-hungry, and corrupt. Most people with integrity and a vision are put off by what they perceive as the dirty business of politics and the fear that it will taint them too.

Democracy, also, has earned a bad name for itself in Nepal largely because of the antics of a succession of elected leaders who exhibited an appalling lack of accountability since 1990, many of those faces are still with us aspiring for elected office.

The problem is that Nepalis, while being hopelessly disillusioned with 'trad pols' and elected ex-revolutionaries have come to blame the system of democracy. It's fashionable to argue that democracy is not suited for Nepal's divisive culture, it's poor and illiterate citizenry and that we may need some kind of benevolent dictatorship. Sound familiar? That was the justification King Mahendra used way back in 1960 to dismiss Nepal's first nationally-elected government, dissolve parliament, and imprison the prime minister and his cabinet.

There is a nostalgia for the command and certitude of the past, but many forget that authoritarianism has been disastrous for Nepal, whether during the Rana period, the 1960-90 Panchayat years, or Gyanendra trying to turn the clock back. Democracy is the messiest system of government, to paraphrase Churchill, but it is a mess that can be fixed if politicians put their minds to it.

After all, politics is just the mechanism that allows democracy to function. Competitive politics offers a marketplace of ideas through which citizens can select the leader they think has the integrity and managerial capability to govern for four years, and lift their living standards. Unfortunately, the cacophony of the media reduces politics to an endless quarrel over power, where today's talking heads in the evening tv news are rebutting yesterday's talking heads. It is politics for politics' sake. We are obsessed with the operational strategy of politics, and have lost track of the larger picture of what politics is for.

And that is precisely what is happening with the media-fanned row between President Ram Baran Yadav and Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai. In fact, as we understand it, there is no row at all. If there is a clash it is actually between Bhattarai and his party Chairman, and between rivals within the three other parties who can scarcely hide their loathing for each other.

Yadav, despite his ceremonial role, is caught in the middle at a time when there is no parliament and the mandate of the prime minister and his government has expired. Any move that the president or the prime minister make will be constitutionally questionable, even illegal.

These are uncharted waters, and only decisions taken by the president and the prime minister together will have a degree of legitimacy and help untangle the overlapping political knots. All President Yadav is trying to do is goad a recalcitrant caretaker coalition that has got comfortable in its job to disassemble itself and accommodate other parties to form a new election government. That is so that no party has an unfair incumbent advantage during the campaign.

The current disagreement is over who gets to be prime minister, and who bags the powerful Home and Finance portfolios in that government. The Madhesi parties in the governing coalition are wary of being sidelined, and that is where things are stuck.

This day-by-day jostling for advantage is being played out in the media, and the rhetoric had got shrill ahead of the president's Friday deadline for the formation of a consensus government. This being Nepal, it will be a miracle if the four forces come up with an agreement. So Yadav will have to extend the deadline, multiple times if need be.

In all this, we should not lose track of the goal of holding elections sometime in 2013, only that will stabilise politics and allow the country to catch up with lost time and move ahead.

1. Kedar Nath Sharma
This editorial is too kind on the corrupted men that are posing as leaders, but are really narrow minded, morally bankrupt, shameless men that have been slapped in public. We cannot expect anything good from men that only represent the bad ! Its like planting a weed and expecting a garden. It just won't work.  Nepal needs another revolution, believe it or not. Nepalis need to unite as people like the Syrians or Libyans and remove the rotten pile that is in place now. A false communist like P K D, or a criminal party like the NC or UML, they cannot deliver the goods we Nepalis need so badly and desperately.  We need jobs, healthcare and a good education.. Its seems that Nepalis think that TIME is in great supply, but its quite the opposite. Actually there is no time. If a man loses his character, he looses everything. Our leaders have no characters, is it not time to give them a kick in their ass.        

2. Prithvi Raj

"We should not lose track of the goal of holding elections sometime in 2013, only that will stabilise politics and allow the country to catch up with lost time and move ahead. "

Stop with it already, Kunda Dixit! Do you really believe the elections will "stabilize" politics? What kind of stability are you talking about?  The one which helps everyone take a pause and enjoy a temporary, conflict-free environment whilst the "trad pols", as you called them loot, plunder and further solidify their power base.  The Maoist thugs--who resemble the Corleones' aspirations of becoming legitimate--have unfortunately been legitimized through the so-called "free and fair" elections, and they have learned extremely well from the criminal UML and Congressis that in a dithering "democratic" state like Nepal, which lacks effective demoractic institutions, has extermely low literacy standards, has complete asymmetry of information, has compromised media, and a deeply corrupt bureacracy, you need power (money, military etc.) to dupe the electorate to remain in power.  How else would you explain the clamor for all to get the Home and Finance portfolios rather than worrying about the sorry state of our country? And what is this farce about "taking turns" to rule the country? Is this how a functioning democracy works? 

You are trying to pre-empt any benevelont dictatorship in Nepal, but you certainly have that in every sphere of the Nepali life: family, business, schools, etc.  So why shouldn't the Nepali politics mirror the society it represents? You sided with the "democrats" and the self-appointed, so-called civil society leaders whilst Gyanendra had asked for three years to get the country back on the democratic path.  You also sided with the foreign agenda and sidelined him. Now we have what Churchill says a--"messy system". But try telling that to the majority of Nepalis who leave the country for want of a better future.  Try telling that to the millions of people languishing in poverty.  When will you say we will get it all right to enter into a real democratic polity and create opportunities which ensure prosperity for those willing and able to work hard? Shouldn't we rather be thinking about incrementalism and strengthening institutions while ensuring the basic rule of law prevails for people to conduct their day-to-day business?  In what sense has life has got better in the last 6-7 years?

Sorry, Kunda, we do not have time on our side and cannot afford to be mired in the democratic experiments for centuries like the Europeans did.  I think it's time to take some bold steps, restore the basics of a functioning polity (rule of law for starters), and start investing (education and skills, health, infrastructure etc.), and most important, strengthening our democratic institutions.  Should we not be learning from the experiences of Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, India that are closer to home rather than singing paeans to the US, UK, Switzerland etc.? What's with this infatuation with the Western-style system of government? Must be the weight of development aid and budget support we receive from the benevelont donors!

3. K. K. Sharma

Unless those who have had created a mess in Nepal are totally removed, nothing better can be expected.

 The mess in which Nepal is today is created by (given, the prevaling opinions in some quaters) is due to :-
a. The incompetent generation of  50 years of age and above,
b. The Bahuns who had and are in positions to call the shots.
c. The sjycophantic Nepali " intellectuals", with imitative minds 

4. K. K. Sharma
{Corrected response )

Those who had have made a mess of Nepal, have to be removed totally, to expect anything better.

Those who have made a mess of Nepal ( according to some opinions in some quarters ) are :- 

a. The incompetent generations 50 years of age and above.

b. The Bahuns who are calling the shots in all sectors of polity.

c. The sycophantic Nepali "intellectuals", with imitative brains, misleading the people.

Take your pick;.. one of the above or all of the above.

5. Poudyal
I totally agree with 2. Prithvi Raj ......can we have a coupe please.

Since it is the NA  that are trained and have the arms....can one of them please come forward and conduct a Coupe .....

By the way I wonder if anyone in the Nepal Army read any of this!

6. Bane
I read with interest what Kunda Dixit explains and also the comment made by my above countrymen. I believe that the broader picture is that there is no one to lead us. The truth is that the whole system in Nepal is corrupt. Look at the politicians, one is worse than the other. Who do you suggest should lead us?
Democracy is a wonderful thing, it gives us freedom of expression. The problem with us Nepali is that we are seriously poor and gready. Look at PKD, BRB, Nepal, Koirala et el, all do not know what they are doing except increase bank balance. Specially PKD and BRB, they say they are communist, it is more like extreme capitalist. God bless Nepal

7. Bikas

Is Pusha Dahal a God of Neapl and Nepalis ? Are all Nepalis Maoist Communists. It lloks like that, for this man Dahal making a fool of everyone. Why is this man walking freely. Who is protecting him. We Nepalis should be asking these questions. Is Dahal above the law. No one is more hated in Nepal today. Dahal has replaced Gyanendra. Nepalis gave the x king the boot, so when will Dahal get his ass kicked and thrown out. Mr. PKD, go rot in hell, for the pain you brought to Nepalis.   


8. Mohan Thapa
Mr Dixit, can you please write like what it really is ! Come on man, you have the power of pen, so use it wisely. I find it disgusting for anyone to say anything nice about the Nepali netas of various party, netas that have sucked the blood dry from Nepal and Nepalis. Netas of Nepal serve the Indian masters in Delhi !  Karan Singh has come to help Dahal and Bhattarai do their filthy and dirty jobs. What a shameful scenario for Nepalis that they cannot solve their own problems.  Nepali janata can never be uplifted, and their lots improved by communist thugs that dance to the Indian tune. Indian exercises too much power and influence in Nepal because our leaders are no match to the Indians. How pathetic is this reality. We have wasted 20 precious years. Enough !  The time has now come to round up the Netas like a cattle round up and put them out to pasture. If we do not get rid of the current goons in power, nothing will change for us. A new generation of Nepali leaders has to emerge to keep the hopes and dreams of 26 million Nepalis alive.            

9. Krishna S.
Yadav, bhattarai, dahal, Koirala and others! These are smart Brahmins. Direct descendent of some of very smart people that have ruled the subcontinent starting way back from kauthilya and his arthashastra. They will figure a way out. Don't worry. Yes a little politics here and there is absolutely understandable given the scope of spoils that will be reaped by the winner of all this. Hey that's natural.
Rest assured, there is no need for the hysteria and calling for benevolent this or that who can set things right. Grow up. It is in no one's interest to let it slide to all doom and gloom! And among all, these smart Brahmins understand it too well.

10. Flexible 1
The thing here that impresses me the most, at last, is the quality of comments following Kunda's article. I congratulate all of you, YOU are exactly the sort of people Nepal needs. Go for it!

11. Tara R
As the editorial points out quite correctly, our experiments with authoritarianism have turned out to be major failures and democracy does seem like the best option. However, I also understand why we Nepalis are nostalgic for a benevolent dictator. It's been more than three decades since we became a democratic nation and still we are hanging in the balance between a failed state and a 'fledgling' democracy. 30 years is a long time, we should have at least set a strong political framework by now. But look what's happening, we are stuck with the revolving door of leaders, a never ending search for consensus, and nobody seems to care what 26 million Nepali want, about federalism, about the constitution. How long should we wait and tolerate this 'messiest system of government'?    

12. Danny Birch
2. Prithvi Raj is completely right. What is so great about the western democracies anyway that Nepal or any other country should feel morally compelled to imitate them ? Those countries have a lot of screwed up societies. Who says western style democracy with the gangster like parties is the only and best way? Why. Jaya Desh, Jai Naresh!

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)