Himalaya Watch

People, issues. Debates, perspectives. Details, nuances. A crisp view from the top.

Visit the new professional website of Jiwan Kshetry

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Nepal: From the frying pan and into the fire?

Besides the over-debated issues related to the formation of election government in Nepal under sitting Chief Justice, here I dwell upon some little-talked aspects of the new development. 
Finally the major political powers in Nepal have agreed for a way out to the current deadlock. The sitting Chief Justice of the country has been sworn in as the head of the cabinet that will supposedly hold elections within next two months or so.

To start with, I was never enthusiastic with the idea and so were many commentators. But as things are evolving, as I commented earlier, it may be a matter of choosing the least evil of the options. Now that the parties have agreed to depend on apparently apolitical person rather than genuinely sorting out the differences among themselves and respecting the existence of each other, little more could be expected pragmatically.

Though I never bought the argument that single person presiding two of the three top institutions of the country would invite tyranny, there were other sound objections to the idea. Topping the list was the concern that just in case anything went awry, there would be no institution left to steer the country out of trouble. Moreover, in a country where a handful of thugs can cripple public life by enforcing closures, a significant power of dozens of political parties outside the four agreeing parties makes a formidable force.

The protests raging in Kathmandu's streets today signify only one thing: the protesting parties are in a position of profound dilemma; either resort to vandalism and hooliganism and gain prominence (at least in media) or simply be thrown into irrelevance. The third way of engaging constructively with the major political powers, while being the most reasonable at the moment, is least rewarding in the short term.

Even with little knowledge of what the new executive chief of the country, Khila Raj Regmi, is up to personally, it can be safely said that the odds stacked against him are enormous; particularly given the seriousness of the job he has been given in a country with fractured polity. First few weeks will be spent on repelling the doubts about how the executive branch of the state will function when the cabinet is led by a man from judiciary and is composed of former bureaucrats (as reported so far). A pertinent question is, will the cronies of major political parties keep functioning as proxy or will there be genuine attempt to establish some degree of accountability in institutions starting at the ministry level?

The second question is: will the Regmi-led government be able to constructively withstand the pressure from the formidable opposition coalition that now includes interest groups ranging from the eternally rebellious party led by Mohan Baidya to every thug in the street disgruntled with the four parties? In this regard the support the four powers can provide to the new government will be huge significance.

Third, will the unity among the four powers and the conformity of that with Regmi's plans sustain for long enough to hold the elections? And to what extent will the political parties sacrifice their own vested interests for the larger good of the country?

Even though the challenges are immense, it is not impossible to hold elections as promised, within 6-8 months if not in 2 months. The greatest issue of concern, however, is that whether the body thus elected will be able to draft a constitution. Given that a far more cohesive and enthusiastic body elected in 2008 failed miserably in its task, one has to be too optimistic to think that a fractured body with dozens of significant political powers (a highly likely scenario) will be able to promulgate a relatively viable constitution.

The worst case scenario will be one in which Regmi cannot hold the elections in the time/manner stipulated in the present agreement. It is somber to imagine a demoralized Regmi leaving the PMO the way incumbent Baburam Bhattarai did, thoroughly failing in the mission.

Amid all the speculations, what will matter for the ordinary people the most is the degree of normalcy that the new government can achieve. The failure of past Constituent Assembly (CA) was so recent that not many people are exactly enthusiastic about having a new constitution through elections. Regardless of whether the elections can be held in time or not, people will expect this government to pay attention to pressing issues in their livelihood like inflation, the chronic shortage of fuel and the flourishing corruption at every level of governance.

Meanwhile, there is a very solid chance of major political parties establishing a regime in which the toothless ex-bureaucrats at ministries look the other way while the agents of those parties already embedded in the public institutions magnify the scale of corruption. Also, blaming the apolitical people at the helm all the way, political powers have every reason to extend their practical power base sustained by musclemen of every tinge and the black economy sustained through a collusion with them.

My personal observation is that this is one of the very real scenario with long lasting ramifications in a country like Nepal where the formal economy is already being badly squeezed by the exponential growth in the informal economy. The breakdown in public order caused by apparently political powers will also only embolden the shady people who started their ventures with political patronage but now boast of controlling the politicians themselves. That will be, in fact, more unfortunate than the scenario of elections not being held at all.

While the elections may be held somehow some time in future, I see a very real possibility of agendas of good governance and promoting accountability being pushed further away in the new scheme. I hope I will be proven wrong and my best wishes to new team led by Giri.

No comments:

विजय कुमारको खुशी पढेपछि

जीवन, खुशी अहंकार

जीवनमा अफ्ठ्यारा घुम्तीहरुमा हिंडिरहँदा मैले कुनै क्षणमा पलायनलाई एउटा विकल्पको रुपमा कल्पना गरेको थिएँ, त्यसलाई यथार्थमा बदल्ने आँट गरिनँ, त्यो बेग्लै कुरा हो त्यसबेला लाग्थ्योः मेरा समग्र दुखहरुको कारण मेरो वरपरको वातावरण हो, यसबाट साहसपूर्वक बाहिरिएँ भने नयाँ दुख आउलान् तर तत्क्षणका दुरुह दुखहरु गायब भएर जानेछन् कति गलत थिएँ !

Read more from Dashain Issue

Debating partition of India: culpability and consequences

Read the whole story here

Why I write...

I do not know why I often tend to view people rather grimly: they usually are not as benevolent, well-intentioned and capable or strong as they appear to be. This assumption is founded on my own self-assessment, though I don’t have a clue as to whether it is justifiable to generalize an observation made in one individual. This being the fact, my views of writers as ‘capable’ people are not that encouraging: I tend to see them as people who intend to create really great and world-changing writings but most of the times end up producing parochial pieces. Also, given the fact that the society where we grow and learn is full of dishonesty, treachery, deceit and above else, mundanity, it is rather unrealistic to expect an entirely reinvigorating work of writing from every other person who scribbles words in paper.

On life's challenges

Somebody has said: “I was born intelligent but education ruined me”. I was born a mere child, as everyone is, and grew up as an ordinary teenager eventually landing up in youth and then adulthood. The extent to which formal education helped me to learn about the world may be debatable but it definitely did not ruin me. There were, however, things that nearly ruined me. There came moments when I contemplated some difficult choices. And there came and passed periods when I underwent through an apparently everlasting spell of agony. There came bends in life from which it was very tempting to move straight ahead instead of following the zigzag course.

Read more