28 Oct - 3 Nov 2016 #831

C’mon, Congress

We need to get it over and done with impeaching Karki, and move on to more pressing issues
Om Astha Rai
Diwakar Chettri

What next? After the 157 MPs, including from his party, registered the impeachment motion against the CIAA Chief Lokman Singh Karki, UML Chair KP Oli quipped: “It is now Deusi time.”

But it looks like it is not the UML-Maoist MPs but Karki himself who will be playing a lot of Deusi this Tihar. And it is because the country’s largest party, the Nepali Congress, is vacillating.  

Deusi is the ritual Tihar chant employed by democracy activists in the past against Gyanendra Shah’s authoritarian rule, and later to prod the parties to speed up constitution writing. Oli says he had assurance from NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba about the impeachment motion against Karki. This is why he was in a hurry to celebrate Deusi to mark the ouster of a man who ran a parallel government by abusing his power. 

Deuba is also fed up with Karki, and will probably not try to protect him. But instead of persuading his party to take a quick decision, he preferred to let the party’s Central Committee (CC) to bell the cat. Most Congress members are suspicious of the hurried way the UML-Maoist MPs ganged up against Karki. They saw it as a UML ploy to break the NC-Maoist coalition, and subvert the effort to amend the Constitution. 

Deuba now wants to discuss the issue in the NC Parliamentary Party meeting which is likely to take place only after Karki defends the accusations against him in the Parliament’s Impeachment Committee. There is nothing wrong in a party taking its own sweet time to make a decision, but the NC is giving Karki the opportunity to maneuver. This Tihar, he will certainly be lobbying at every power base in the capital to get Parliament to back off. 

The NC proudly claims to be the custodian of democracy, but often has to be goaded by others to sign up for protecting hardwon freedoms. It was the last to champion republicanism, and flirted with the idea of a baby king until the monarchy was officially abolished. 

Because of the NC’s dilly-dallying, the House was adjourned on Tuesday after the first day of deliberations on the motion, and will convene only after Tihar and Chhath festivals. Until then, Karki will use all the resources at his disposal to reinstate himself. After the Big Three agreed to reach a package deal on Wednesday night, the NC will probably vote for the motion, but the likes of the NC’s Khum Bahadur Khadka are not just talking about giving Karki a fair chance to defend himself. They are talking about defending him. 

Nepal’s political and social activists first fought against Karki’s appointment, and then his wrong-doings. He was the worst candidate to head the corruption watchdog, and his conduct and actions have been even more sinister.  Karki is now at the centre of national politics, and the impeachment motion, if foiled, could lead to the government falling, which in turn could also derail the constitution implementation and amendment process. Held guilty by the Krishna Jung Rayamajhi Commission of abusing his power to suppress the 2006 Democracy Movement, Karki was disqualified to hold a public office in future. Yet, he made a grand comeback in 2013 as the head of a constitutional commission that had previously investigated him in a corruption case. 

Karki was not just above law, but he ran a parallel state. He reportedly tapped phone calls of the Chief Justice, the Speaker and political leaders, and deployed spies to hunt down personal enemies. His ouster was inevitable, but Parliament took too long to act against him. 

After the promulgation last year of the new Constitution, the Big Three now face an even more challenging task. They have to implement the Constitution by electing local bodies, federal provinces and the new Parliament. They also need to negotiate with Madhesi-Janajati parties, amend the Constitution, determine the numbers and shapes of local bodies. The top leaders, mainly Deuba, must understand they cannot afford to delay Karki’s dismissal. They just need to get it over and done with, and move on to more pressing issues on the Constitution. 

The tragedy of Nepal’s democracy is that its main custodian is a status-quoist party like the NC that constantly needs to be egged on to make progressive decisions. It is time for the NC to lead other parties, not to be led by others. 

Read also:

Suspended animation, Kunda Dixit

A parallel government, Govinda KC

Who is afraid of Lokman?, Ameet Dhakal

The lonely struggle against tyranny, Bidushi Dhungel

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