The Nepali bourgeoisie is angrily demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala. Capitalists of the capital are up in arms in the name of corruption. The chatterati wants Koirala out on grounds of morality. The elite wants Koirala kicked out because they find him too arrogant. Others hate Koirala because they think his nose is too long. And yet, there is Koirala, still in the eye of the storm, unruffled like an old banyan amidst the swaying trees. Or as his detractors put it: stubborn as a mule.
But the political longevity of Koirala has nothing to do with his strength and stamina. His survival is a damning indictment of the Nepali bourgeoisie. Despite seeming to be at the nadir of his career, Girija Prasad Koirala is still the tallest among the political pygmies of Nepali politics and society. For the get-rich-quick bigots in the bourgeoisie and the hypocritical NIMBY elite, Koirala continues to remain the least unacceptable option. The least rotten of the apples in the barrel.
Despite a bout of motorcycle burning and a threatened three-day national shutdown next week, the UML has failed to fire the imaginations of Nepalis. The party's once-admired apparatchiks stand naked out there, shorn of their working-class pretensions. Let us remember that corruption did not start with the Nepali Congress. In fact, UML ministers institutionalised it during their brief stints in power. Today, the UML is the richest political party in the country, and their leaders are models of upwardly mobile bourgeois prosperity-complete with pot-bellies, Pajeros, palmtops and palatial mansions. When the comrades ask for Girija's head, many Nepalis compare it with the ploy of a fox preaching a bull the virtues of vegetarianism, and hoping for its hump to fall off so that it can relish the meat.
The clamour for Koirala's head in a section of Nepali press is based on an accusation that is almost impossible to prove in a court of law. A politically-motivated media is flogging the dead-horse of a controversial aircraft lease to attack the prime minister, but is sullying itself in the process. This obsession with Koirala and Lauda has exposed the media's partisan string-pullers like nothing else in recent times. It has tried to be the police, prosecutor, judge and executioner all rolled into one. By muckraking, the media is bringing up its own slime.
Our constitutional organs are manned (not a single woman in them) by former bureaucrats who cut their administrative teeth during the dictatorial regime as hatchet men of the Panchayat era. When they go after the prime minister with their barely concealed axes, it is Koirala who gets the public sympathy. Pontifications by former panchas about political morality lack credibility. Remember the naked display of political promiscuity during the shameful days of coalition governments recently? By asking for Koirala's ouster, the Panchas do him a favour.
And of Koirala's detractors within the party, the less said the better. Unwilling to fight, incapable of taking defeat with grace, and unable to chart an independent course, NC dissidents have joined the chorus of the opposition parties. Antagonism between septuagenarians can be attributed to a clash of the hubris that seeps in with senility. But why do "youth leaders" waste all their youthful energy in this internecine war of self-destruction? Perhaps Shailaja Acharya is right-the Nepali Congress really does have no future. This man is not going to resign in disgrace. Leave him alone, and he just might.
Slandering Koirala is the favourite past-time of social-climbers with intellectual pretensions. To prove that you are a true-blue satin socialite-and not just another Kazi-come-lately-you must indulge yourself in the game of character assassination with each sip of red wine and every puff of cigarello. Koirala is easy prey for crude caricatures by budding commentators. Writers with more ambition than talent piggyback on his popularity and pillory him for instant fame. Koirala is right in his prognosis. If he capitulates to the clamour of a notoriously selfish and vengeful bourgeoisie, no prime minister in the future will be safe from such blatant bullying.
But his prescription is all wrong. His continuation in the prime minister's chair is not the right answer. The solution lies in devising an honourable exit as soon as possible. It is time Koirala the citizen and Koirala the president of the ruling party asked Koirala the prime minister to step down. But the bourgeois takeover of Nepali public life is so complete that no one has the strength of character to force him out. Koirala may not be a quitter, but he has passed the stage of having to prove himself. After all, despite all his failings, Girija has never lost an election. His control over the party apparatus is near-total, and he still enjoys the support of the majority of the ruling party lawmakers.
And it is for these very reasons that he must now leave Baluwatar. Winners do not quit-they fade away gracefully after having worked themselves out of the job. An even more glorious way to bow out is to make way for a worthy successor more suited to the challenges of the times.