Nepali Times
Guest Column
Dirty games


In Nepal the saying 'politics is a dirty game' has special significance, our political masters have habitually defied logic to serve myopic designs even though these designs are strategically worthless.

Nearly a year after the February First royal takeover, a familiar pattern of senseless behaviour has been revealed which speaks poorly of the collective intellectual capacity of Nepal's political elite.

Many pundits opposed the takeover because they equated this development with a power grab. Having correctly assessed part of the equation, they dismissed rational attempts at re-establishing equilibrium as 'royalist designs' and embarked on a journey of confrontation. Instead of employing counter-measures to desist a strategy predicated on divisions, our pundits consciously re-enforced ideological polarisation, forwarded individualistic agendas and further decimated the moderate platforms they purportedly represent.

Had the intent been to avert extremist designs, the common forum should have been a united front to negotiate with the Maoists. This approach would have guaranteed unconditional, unambiguous international support and would also have enabled the parties to keep their constituencies intact.

Moderates who claim with 20/20 hindsight that siding with the Maoists over the monarch is inherently more logical neglect the fact that carefully engineered outcomes and providence are not the same thing.

The main reason for polarisation is self-righteous pride. Such misguided arrogance renders humiliation a potent weapon that is repeatedly employed to diminish certain outcomes and augment others. Despite a repetitive (and predictable) pattern, our pundits demonstrate a suspended incapacity at placing populist interests ahead of individual ones. Case in point: after a dose of post- February First humiliation, our political gurus willingly participated in competitive radicalization. Despite having forecast a "grand design" our political visionaries did everything possible to see to the design's unimpeded implementation.

Instead of preserving and building upon what remained of moderate politics, the seven party alliance has perilously expanded its membership to an eighth outfit: the Maoists. And the rebels have gone to great lengths to portray their 12-point agreement as a unified platform of opposition against the palace.

This agreement is reminiscent of superfluous attempts at defending democracy when what was really being defended was partisan underperformance. The 12-point agreement merely formalised what was already a shared agenda. More importantly, the agenda laid the ground work as a safety net for the Maoist leadership.

As ambiguous as the 12-point agreement may be, it serves a crucial purpose in the process of complete polarisation. For traditionally moderate parties like the NC, progression under a united leftist banner is not without peril. The champion of Nepal's political middle ground is now a victim of its own hypocrisy: continued external opposition to an 'undemocratic regime' and internal, undemocratic suppression of an emerging generation.

Ultimately, we've arrived at the pinnacle of polarisation and the political blunder of all time: rejection of polls. No space need be wasted debating why. After all, rejecting elections did wonders for the democratic image of all actors involved. Whether the outcome was intentional (at least for the mainstream parties) is debatable.

As an evolutionary step, it is inherently more logical to first aim for a functional democracy as opposed to a full, liberal or absolute democracy. Even with the political haze that obscures our nation's trajectory, it is evident that the foremost obstacle to democratic discourse is an arcane generation of leaders. The tradition of unflinching susceptibility to temptation and greed will persist for as long as outdated customs and their proponents enjoy positions of power.

Since Nepal's political institutions are in the habit of following our southern neighbor's lead, now would be a good time to take the example of individuals like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and A K Advani. It would be the perfect time to permit internal, political pluralism, to allow new faces in old positions and to transform democratic lip-service into democratic practice.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)