11-17 March 2016 #799

Money mind

The parties work hand-in-glove with the bureaucracy and business elite to plunder and loot in our kleptocratic state
Bidushi Dhungel

Pic: Diwakar Chettri

The whirlwind of the Nepali Congress General Convention and the election for a new party leadership has finally come to an end. The general sentiment seems to be that under Sher Bahadur Deuba’s stewardship the likelihood of addressing grievances is higher. There is also talk of a great ‘balance’ in the party brought forward by the Deuba-Shashank Koirala team.

Even before the election, an image of Deuba as the ‘progressive’ leader for the party and the likes of Paudel and Koirala as a ‘regressive’, and the Sitaula alliance as the ‘Indian hand’ were more or less established.

But if past records are anything to go by, whichever ‘camp’ is leading is unlikely to make any difference except among supporters and patrons who will now cash in on the new leadership. The idea that a Deuba-led party would somehow be more amenable to the Madhesi cause, for example, seems almost baseless. A cursory look at his past premierships and his positions on the undivided Far West should be proof enough. Instead of giving him support, Madhesi pundits should be raising eyebrows.

Perhaps the Madhesi Front trusts Deuba more because he may well be the ‘most lenient’ in the NC leadership to agree to whatever demands come his way, so long as he gets his seat in power. Ram Chandra Poudel, whom Deuba defeated, lags only a few steps behind in this respect.

But at this point, every leader in every political party will pretty much do anything for power, signing on to whatever comes their way to ensure two things: sustained power and the inevitable and unhindered loot of the coffers. In real terms, it should be evident to all Nepalis that there is no real difference between Deuba and Paudel, between the NC and UML and the Prachanda-led Maoists. Even Chitra Bahadur KC’s Jana Morcha and Kamal Thapa’s RPPN seem to have bartered ideology for power. In reality, differences are exaggerated during times of political sensitivity like it was during the convention, but they mean very little beyond those days and weeks. Now you can hardly tell one leader or party from another Major political parties in Nepal are all, in theory, left of centre. In practice none of them have a substantial binding political ideology aside, of course, from an entrenched belief in malpractice and corruption. They carry policies and actions which are simultaneously neo-liberal, conservative, socialist, fascist, nationalist and everything in between, so long as the actions yield results in their political – and thus economic -- favour.

Most recently, the parties have also become nationalists. The KP Sharma Oli government in particular was able to use nationalist rhetoric to suppress the movement in the Tarai, place all blame on neighbouring India while raking in billions from the thriving black market. Nationalist rhetoric was cleverly espoused, not to establish race superiority as some might argue, but indeed to become wealthy.

One doesn’t even have to analyse the blockade politics or the Madhes movement to understand the root of the unholy alliance of the current government. Fundamentally, a coalition should not even be possible if ideology (or integrity) were a binding factor. For example, the day Comrade Pushpa Kamal got on stage in Tundikhel some months ago and espoused the sentiments of poet Madhav P Ghimire on nationalism, the supremacy of greed over ideology and belief became evident. For now, nationalism was going to be the choice vehicle that had little to do with national sovereignty.

Truth be told, Nepal is reeling under a conservative spell along with the rest of the subcontinent and perhaps even the world. That would be less worrying if that at least meant more growth and development, as is often the case. Unfortunately, a kleptocratic state and society will not even allow that much. With the parties working hand-in-glove with the bureaucracy and business elite to plunder and loot as their priority agenda, the immediate future not looking so great for any of us.

Read Also:

Deuba, Delhi and Oli, Navin Jha

What next in the Madhes? Jiyalal Sah

The Rise of Deuba

Restless radicals, Navin Jha

Why Madhes Movement Failed

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