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  Vicious cycle  
 

SUKHDEV SHAH

Rana rulers and absolute monarchy did act unwisely governing the country, but they can be forgiven for their mistakes, since they had captured power to rule the country for their dynastic interests and people’s welfare was never part of their agenda. In fact, many of these autocrats viewed development and modernization as threats to their long-term hold on power and stability of their regimes.

Much of this now is history, with aristocratic regimes of yesteryears giving way to pluralism and representative government spearheaded by political parties. This has been the normal course of political evolution in much of the world, and Nepal’s experience is no different. Nonetheless, Nepal presents a very different case than others because there is no evidence that it has benefited from change in regimes.

This is so because in every case the regime change has collapsed back to the starting point, making it difficult to justify why the change was needed in the first place. Indeed, politics of the country has been turned into a revolving casino in which political leaders wait for their own turn to get in and, once they are in, they pursue no other goal than to maximize their personal fortune and solidify their hold on power, regardless of the party label, ideology, and image they project while making the case for regime change.

For example, looking back on the past 60 years, Nepalis find scant difference in the government operations—behavior of political parties, civil service, judiciary, security services—that would signal who are out and who are in. It then looks that the country has experienced revolutions for sure but these revolutions have been little more than illusions—in terms of the absence of substantive change in public life. As one common saying goes—the more things seem to change, the more they look the same or worse! Nepali people really are trapped in what I would say a revolving political-merry-go-round!

LAND OF COMPROMISES

One may count numerous reasons for such political malfunction and do-nothing government apparatus but the core reason is something not quite understood which, in my view, has been the readiness of warring forces to compromise on basic principles, seek convenient accommodation, and avoid taking risks. The avoidance of a hard-line approach is considered smart—even wise—politics for the reason that it helps generate a “consensus,” softens up dissent, promotes unity, and creates a bonding for working together toward a common goal. However, there is a downside of this type of malleability and coexistence, which is that it tends to erase any distinction between winners and losers, right and wrong, and, for that reason, between good and evil.

This is not to say that one shouldn’t be considerate toward one’s adversary but such compassion hardly merits applause if it erases any distinction between the victor and vanquished. If that be the ultimate goal, why bother to fight in the first place and, worse, why involve others to share your vision, do your bidding, take risks, and make sacrifices for a promised better tomorrow? Leadership with such intent cannot be more credible than a dealer in snake-oil!
Nepal’s recent history is replete with incidence of double-dealings, deceits, camouflage, bluster, and brinkmanship in the leadership of political movements that have produced no clear winners or losers and, predictably, didn’t help change the public life in a way all such confrontations normally would lead to.
Nepal’s recent history is replete with incidence of double-dealings, deceits, camouflage, bluster, and brinkmanship in the leadership of political movements that have produced no clear winners or losers and, predictably, didn’t help change the public life in a way all such confrontations normally would lead to.

Some examples:
Krishna Prasad Bhattarai’s Interim Government (1990) was given almost dictatorial powers for asserting people’s power that was lost to absolute monarchy 30 years earlier. However, there is no evidence that his administration functioned any differently than of a panchayat prime minister and, personally, Bhattarai remained totally subservient to the palace and its functionaries. No one was tried or jailed for alleged abuse of authority and Bhattarai meekly suppressed Mallik Report that would have exposed the abuses of panchayat period and given clout to democratic institutions. Bhattarai exhibited no such enthusiasm and did little to change the established order he inherited from the panchayat rulers.

Girija Prasad Koirala’s ascendancy to become prime minister in 1991 didn’t signal any change in administration’s focus, either. He was too focused on consolidating his own hold on power, first by ousting Bhattarai and then spending his time and energy fighting Ganeshman Singh, to become another autocrat just like under panchayat. In essence, he turned out to be another panchayat leader in a democratic garb.

Then came Sher Bahadur Deuba who risked a great deal feuding with Koirala but not for a pluralistic democracy but for his personal democracy, to be operated under the shadow of the palace. Deuba, along with Bhattarai, played a key part in sponsoring the prime ministerships of Surya Bahadur Thapa and Lokendra Bahadur Chand, in large measure to spite at democracy. On a personal note, I couldn’t forgive Deuba for the personnel choices he made to man his administration. Especially, how could he justify his choice of a life-time panchayati person to represent his government in the world’s most powerful democracies when many people with democratic credentials would have offered a far more sensible choice!

Lastly, we need to look at the conduct of Royal Nepal Army, or RNA as it was then called, toward the end of the fight for a republic. During most of its existence, RNA conducted itself as more of the king’s army or a palace guard, and didn’t pride itself being the national army. With the entire population coming out in the open to oppose king’s rule and demand abolition of monarchy, there was no point for the army to put up a fight to save the king. The king knew that he was totally dependent on the army to survive and rule and, for that reason, it was unlikely that he would have resisted if the army had faced him with a stern warning—yield to people’s demand or we will put you in the closet! If it had really desired to fend for democracy, history had provided it abundant opportunities to do so but, in fact, it always remained opposed to democracy.

The most bizarre incidents of obscene compromises and cheap meddling have occurred in recent years, especially during the numerous rounds of election for prime minister. Such compromises are driven by narrow interests, with no trace of morality or ethics. In essence, the country would have to wait for a leader or a group of leaders who would be concerned about values and principles, rising above personal and petty interests. Looking at recent history, this wait is going to be long—lasting at least a generation.

sshah1983@hotmail.com,/a>
 
Published on 2011-01-29 01:10:34
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Vicious Cycle
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LATEST COMMENTS
Another intellectual going haywire to gain something of the weakness in Nepal.



Well Mr. Shah, don´t try to fool your reader, we know what your intentions are that is to please a political group and bag an ambassador post. [more]
  - deshman
and wht the heck you trying to prove? pouring out your frustrations! if you so blame on every single thing of a democratic development brought about over time, why do you not take lead [more]
  - gp
I agree with Mukul Sharma and S. Shrestha. Mr. Shah should devote his time to writing on economic matters where he does have expertise and leave political issues to others. I enjoy reading his articles on economic issues but not on political issues. [more]
  - Munish
Shah ji, you write English well, That does not mean you have expertise in every subject. It is nauseating to read your political articles, full of empty rhetoric and personal anger. Why do not you write on economic issues in which you have real expertise and to which you can truly contribute? [more]
  - S. Shrestha
This is with reference to the article “Vicious Cycle” Jan 29. It is often believed that”Change, always unsettling, is often rewarding” however in Nepal’s case it has always been seen that any kind of Political change has always been only rewarding to the rulers or the political heads instead of to the nation as a whole. Be it the Panchayati system or the democratic and now the Federal democratic structure.

I too believe with the views of Mr. Shah that the wait for real le [more]
  - Shailesh Pratap Shah
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