Nepal Today

Saturday, June 29, 2013

CHIRMAN OF SIDDHARTHA DEVELOPMENT BANK ARRESTED Kathmandu, 30 June: Chairman of Siddhartha Development Bank Shekhar Aryak was arrested Saurday from the capital. Aryal was arrested by Central Investigation Bureau Saturday for banking irregularities. He’s suspected of extending loan by overvaluing collateral. nnnn OPINION APPRAISING AVERAGE INDIAN AND US Kathmandu, 30 June: Breaking out of our cross-institutional indignation in the aftermath of last week’s devastating floods in western Nepal, it’s hard not to feel for the average Indian, Maila Baje writes in Nepali Netbook., The Indian Embassy rejected the mounting contention from our political class that the floods in Mahakali River were caused by release of excess water from Dhauliganga Dam in India’s Uttarakhand state. Significantly, Nepal’s top bureaucrat, Lila Mani Poudel, after inspecting the area with Interim Government Chairman Khil Raj Regmi, appeared to back the original Nepali stance. “Since the matter was related to a project in a friendly country, the chairman didn’t make any comment (on the accusations),” Chief Secretary Poudel said. He, of course, hastened to add that his comments were based on the local people’s views. Still, when Nepali civil servants begin expressing such candor, regardless of the immediate veracity of the claim, you get a greater sense of the sordidness of the bilateral state of affairs. To the average Indian citizen, our political-bureaucratic-popular contention must have sounded particularly inopportune. For one thing, Indians are also the victims of the recent regional floods. For another, this caustic outspokenness comes barely days after former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s high-profile visit to New Delhi, during which he assured Indian journalists that no widespread anti-Indian sentiment prevailed in Nepal. While we have long complained about India’s constant meddling in all aspects of our national life, the average Indian has remained flustered by the sheer lack of gratitude on our part. During times like these, even Maila Baje cannot help commiserate with the average Indian. Think of it this way. We hardly seem to recall that it was the Indians who gave us our first airport and first highway and a plethora of other things. Those who do remember are more likely to see the airport as a carefully contrived tool of ensuring more direct Indian interference. The highway? Well, we are apt to say, the Indians built it in a way that would increase consumption of Indian products and parts. Remittances started flowing into Nepal long before we discovered the Gulf countries. The sheikhs hold on to our passports, while the Indians do not require us to even possess one. Big brothers do recognize the disadvantage that comes with size. But they don’t like having to apologize for it. In fairness, even they were capable of grasping how prickly their very preponderance is for the little guys, there is scarcely anything they – or we – can really do about it. But sometimes we make matters worse. Infuriated by Indian assertions of ‘special relations’, we do not hesitate to beseech India to bail us out from our inherently internal predicaments. When the Indians do so, they proceed in accordance with their own national interest. So when Nepal’s political future is charted in the Indian capital in 1951 or 2005, the nature of the political structure advanced is secondary to the understanding of how that structure advances India’s broad national interests. In their exuberance, our leaders rush to explain that India’s role in advancing Nepali democracy should not be considered detrimental in any way. The duly anointed new regime sets out to work as if there is nothing more to do. Their failure to deliver, so obvious to so many Nepalis so soon, begins to rile their Indian patrons. New Delhi can’t go back, so it starts picking and choosing leaders within parties; those sidelined are the first to start blaming India. This cycle is perhaps understandable to the average Indian. He or she probably also recognizes how successive governments in New Delhi have contributed to botching relations. When they see RAW – a pale shadow of Pakistan’s ISI in the annals of international espionage – blamed for everything that goes wrong in Nepal, the average Indian probably tends to blame his or her own government. Presumably, the average Indian – global in approach and ambition – is more tolerant of Nepal’s quest for sovereign existence. If official India tends to equate every Nepali assertion of its sovereign rights as anti-Indianism, then average Indian might perhaps be tempted to hold New Delhi answerable for a lot. But then he or she sees us rooting for Pakistan in sporting events. We seem to be opposed to India’s permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council not because we don’t think India possesses the requisite qualifications, but because of some quirk in our collective national DNA. If a Bollywood flick makes a slight misstep in terms of history or geography, the distinction between cinema and subversion disappears. Bilateral relations are capable of withstanding all manner of pressure as long as the people are able to rise above their respective governments’ shenanigans. The average Indian might still ask his or her government for answers. Will he or she be able to do so without turning against the average Nepali, though? Nnnn POLITICS OF INTERIM GOVT. Kathmandu, 30 June: Now in the fourth month in office, the partyless government of basically retired bureaucrats has emerged as a subject public indifference at best. On the surface the nine-member interim cabinet, constituted to conduct elections either in April-May or November, consists of neutral members. The fact, however, is that most of the ministers are known to have been nominated by the four “major” parties notorious for their authoritarian style of functioning, Trikal Vastavik writes in People’s Review.. This author has come to know of ministers being under enormous pressure from the political parties that nominated them to the cabinet. Will they oblige the political bosses? A prominent minister is learnt to have maintained, “We will be here for only a short while. We, therefore, should worry about our public image. But we are facing so much political pressure.” The Khil Raj Regmi-headed interim cabinet hobbled from the start when the four-party syndicate’s leaders made a volley of speeches asserting that the new cabinet was an outcome of compulsion. The quartet, which has so often and arbitrarily misused its position in dictating terms to the people whenever it wanted a dubiously convenient escape route required by difficult situations of its own making, failed to come at a consensus as to who should lead the election cabinet. Ridiculously, the four parties could not trust one another but they wanted the rest of the Nepalis to meekly accept what got imposed by the syndicate. The Regmi cabinet is the result of the syndicate’s “compulsion.” If the four party bosses, who claim to possess the key to the conduct of the Regmi, sound not to be enthusiastic about the interim government, how can the vast majority of Nepalis be satisfied with either the puppets or the puppeteers? Against a background of the opposition of the day in all past multiparty elections complaining of poll rigging, the challenge for the basically retired bureaucrats-filled dispensation nominated by the syndicate is clear. The Nepal Communist party-Maoist rejected the interim cabinet which is described as “an illegitimate child of the four-party syndicate.” Who holds the reins of power during elections has always mattered a lot in Nepali party politics. The Nepali Congress of B.P. Koirala in 1958 agreed to the Constitution announced by King Mahendra. This violated the NC’s demand for a constitution written by people’s representatives, that is, a constituent assembly. However, King Mahendra threw a carrot at the party that was at the head of the 1950-51 democratic movement, which received a big boost and active blessings from King Tribhuvan, by installing Subarna Shumsher Rana to head the interim government whose task was to conduct the 1959 multi-phase general elections. Unable to resist the royal allurement, Koirala and his party gave the nod. Fearing that the palace and the NC would benefit the most from a boycott, the communists and others also reluctantly agreed to join the fray. More than 60 percent of the eligible voters stayed away from the polls. Of the total votes cast, the NC obtained less than 40 percent but this sufficed it to secure two-thirds majority. On the strength of mere numbers, without heeding what the popular votes reflected, the subsequent Koirala-led government acted indifferently with the opposition parties and, more importantly, failed to maintain law and order. Looting incidents at various parts of the country and killing of civilians during demonstrations against an already unpopular government aggravated the atmosphere. The manner in which the general public, particularly in Kathmandu Valley, greeted the dismissal of the NC government echoed popular sentiments. King Mahendra’s action of dismissing the Koirala cabinet was not very unpopular. The people were indifferent even to the dissolution of the parliament. What made many sections unhappy and, later, angry was the ban on political parties. King Birendra, responding to a wave of demonstrations in May 1979, announced a national referendum with the choice before the voters being panchayat with suitable reforms and multiparty system. The leftist groups wanted a completely neutral government if a cabinet consisting of representatives of the previously banned parties was not possible. Realizing that the king would not agree to someone from the NC to head the election government unlike the 1959 elections, Koirala’s party, with its overrated clout as the “first elected government” and hangover from the 1959 victory, agreed to “liberal pancha” Surya Bahadur Thapa heading the election government. How Thapa obliged the multiparty proponents in the run-up to the referendum, which gave its verdict to the panchayat (55 percent of the votes going for the panchayat and 45 percent to the multiparty side), is well-known. To his credit, Koirala accepted the referendum verdict “although inexplicable.” He had endorsed the result in order to avoid looking ridiculous for having supported Thapa so relentlessly. But the NC leader was bent on pushing forth his agenda for party system. He failed to achieve in his lifetime what a variety of factors, mainly support from the Rajiv Gandhi government in New Delhi that tried to throttle the supply line of essential goods to landlocked Nepal, enabled the restoration of multiparty system in 1990. The subsequent interim government headed by NC president Krishna Prasad Koirala created confidence in the party, although nominees from communist groups were also in the cabinet. In the 1991 elections, the NC won a majority of seats but well short of the landslide majority it had won 32 years earlier. The NC was, however, unhappy that the CPN (UML) won 69 seats in the 205-seat House of Representatives, which it attributed to the communists’ inclusion in the election cabinet. That the CPN (UML) emerged as the largest party in the 1994 general elections is another story. Girija Prasad Koirala had, to satisfy his ego, arbitrarily called for a mid-term election, an announcement that was criticized by his own party members. His gross failure to assure the people that his was not a partisan and incompetent government turned voters away. Had the NC government not been in power, the party that led the 1990 movement for restoration of multiparty system would have suffered far heavier losses. The NC has come to the conclusion that leading an election team has many advantages to the ruling party. Either such a position helps the party to emerge as the largest group in parliament or at least help drastically reduce the number of seats it otherwise would have suffered. Other parties, too, calculate that NC in the past was the biggest beneficiary of heading an election government. There are no known active party leaders in the Regmi-led cabinet, whose antecedents are, however, being gradually discussed in not so pleasing terms for the team. nnnn


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