Nepali Times
Strictly Business
The slap that shook Nepal



How long have you been reading about "imminent consensus" among political parties in Nepal? Yet after the 16th failed parliamentary elections for a new Prime Minister, bickering goes on and on among the taukays.

So tired have the people been of the netas' interest in their own survival rather than in getting down to the business of completing the constitution that when a Devi Prasad Regmi slapped the "cotton-soft cheeks" of Jhala Nath Khanal, letters to editor sections, Nepali blogosphere and Facebook comment spaces lit up with emotions of approval. Many commentators hailed Regmi as a hero. Some urged that Khanal's peers should also be slapped "for destroying the country".

Slaps may provide temporary relief. But they don't solve long-term problems. Media and civil society can, however, take cues from Regmi's slap to help create a climate of accountability from which even Khanal cannot escape.
What can the media do? It's no secret that Nepali language media is dominated by either political party sympathisers (clue: when you see Madhav Nepal on too many magazine covers, you can guess where the editors' political affiliations lie) or political party aspirants (clue: taukay politicians are given star treatment on talk shows, radio interviews and new analyses).

Such journalists like to impress one another with the demonstration of their access and proximity to politicians. Is it any surprise, then, that headlines and cover stories are all about the same old dysfunctional politics?

In other countries, journalists are adept at routinely re-using news archives to show the contrast between what the politicians said at one point in time, and what they did later. Repeated often, this simple device has an unnerving effect: either the politicians will be proven to be brazen liars who should face electoral wrath or they will end up doing close to what they said they would do.

In either case, by showing the contrast between the past and the present, media can help inject a sense of accountability in the political discourse. Else, politics will continue to be seen as some sort of a flowing river: what happens today is treated as fresh news, with no connection to what the politicians did in recent past. And a chance for the media to champion accountability will be lost.

What can civil society do? Behind every Nepali civil society leader is an NGO in need of funds and support from donors, government and political parties. This is not a cynical observation, but an acknowledgement of the realities of our civil society dynamics. Except for a few who are either retired or wealthy, most such leaders are constrained when it comes to what they can say and do. The result is that their roles become too NGO-fied, with their being more interested in getting along nicely than in acting as public spokespersons.

In such a context, the least civil society leaders can do is not continue to wax eloquent about the platitudes about democracy to the point of mass irritation, but to challenge the politicians to make their visions and pronouncements specific and concrete: will the constitution be written by May? If not, why? What specific ideas do the parties have to stop holding the ambitions of millions of Nepalis hostage just because their leaders cannot get their act together to govern the country? Is it Nepal's destiny to merely be the armpit of land between the fast growing economies of China and India?

There's no point expecting the politicians to strike light and transform themselves: they simply won't change on their own. What can be changed is our collective response to politics in the public sphere through a media and civil society that values accountability over antics.

What is the NC waiting for?, DAMAKANT JAYSHI

1. Trai
great piece, ashu dai. the fact that we are actually rejoicing over this incident means that our leaders have failed us. good might this piece be, I still believe you have lost that edge you had once-upon-a-time. 

2. K. K. Sharma

You might as well, think of ways and means to make a cat accountable for the plate of milk he is supposed to guard.

3. Keith
Ashu, good ideas! ¬ How about encouraging the NT to also diversify their editorialists and writers weekly? ¬ You could open the space for democratic dialogue in the Nepali English press further by recruiting, encouraging, even paying a broader range of civil society representatives from around the country to contribute their thoughts, voices, perspectives on these pages. We heard so many articulate, thoughtful, peaceful voices from such a variety of people all the proposed provinces speak during our Federalism Dialogues during 2010. ¬ The media is power. ¬ How stimulating and encouraging it would be to hear their voices here, as well. ¬ Their hopes and aspirations would be more refreshing, lasting and energizing than a mere slap in the face... ¬ Tks! ¬ best, K.

4. Gole
Ek mukka diye pugdaina due mukka diye badi hunchha, ke garne?

5. jange

This is just like the Nepali saying:

Pahile budhi janina

Pachhi budi manina

Bagh lagyo ghichauna

Budi lagi chichauna

They should have thought of this when they scrapped the old constitution. All agreed that they did not want it but no one knew what they wanted.

Hence the mess.

Maybe the author would like to tell us how a money making corporation would have handled it all.

Ooops!! Sorry, the government is already a money making corporation. So maybe they are not doing too badly then?√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺ

6. Shristi
George Orewells "Animal Farm" needs to be translated to Nepali if it hasn't been. When there is so much friction between input and outut. The question author has asked in the mind of every Nepali. But there are so many other question we have unanswered? the question remains how to ask that question effectively? who to ask that question? how to get that question answered? we don't need another bandhs or riots or chakka jams or disrupted traffic, we need some novel solution. If there were to be regular election and established system, people could vote their answers in without interference or fear.. In our country that has not been possible for decades...we need to bank some ideas ...what is the consensus parties are looking at? it's all bogus? politicians please save the country at least for your children... I think election committe with experts need to be given the more power than the prime minister till the election is held...i know my ideas may be stupid as I am not smart enough but please we need people to think of better ideas and better solution.

7. Khurafati
Now after slapped by Mr. Regmi , Jhalu appear as succor of  Late King
Tribhuvan..After becoming prime minister he will advocate for Naolojanbad not for constitution. To make constitution is obligation of other CAs. Perhaps Gachhadar will get more vote incoperision to jhalu, will be another slap?

8. Subash
Mr Regmi's slap seems to be pretty lucky for Mr Khanal, who now holds the chair of PM. What a slap was that? What an irony!

9. kegarne

I think an independent civil society group should honor Regmi for his courageous act. Also give him a token award on the same day Jhallu  starts his PM job. We could even start a Khabardaar Citizens' Movement with Mr Slapper as our icon. 

Civil society wallahs, please start thinking about it. This is a great symbolic moment not to be missed. Even Prachanda the Terrible mentioned the slap in his latest speech.

Let's slap our way to a genuine and functional democracy. 

10. Ranjan

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)