Sunday, January 06, 2013

Fixation With A Nonpartisan Fix

The prospect of an ‘independent’ personality being appointed premier has posed a real dilemma to the political class. (Forget for the moment the absurdity of trying to identify a politically autonomous individual from the midst of our entrenched polarization and alignments into brotherhoods and sisterhoods of one party or the other.)
The mere acceptance of such a personality would be tantamount to a collective confession of failure on the part of our professional politicians. Yet a non-political prime minister, Maila Baje contends, would allow the traditional political fraternity to evade responsibility for the greater calamity likely to ensue from our prolonged national quandary.
That President Ram Baran Yadav and Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai can still feign credibility in their respective assault on the constitutionality of the other amplifies the emptiness of the external hand behind the contrived change under way here. The aliens we are talking about are far less likely to concede failure.
The erstwhile Seven Party Alliance and the Maoists were far too competent not to comprehend the absurdity of presiding over the kind of transformation that was never part of what drove the Nepali masses to rise up against direct royal rule in April 2006.
When the proverbial chickens came home to roost, elements of the ascendant political class found it tempting to play the blame game. Unable to impress the wary spectators, some now see virtue in bringing in someone new to fix the unfixable.
The idea of an independent prime minister has been both welcomed and ridiculed from across the political spectrum. Yet the Nepali Congress, aggrieved by its failure to reach what finally seemed to be within grasp this time, has been the most vociferous about letting the politicians do the politicking.
After all, as Dr. Shekhar Koirala reminded us the other day, the Maoists, the CPN-UML and the Madhesi Front had asked the party to name its prime ministerial candidate in what was projected as a gesture of conciliation. Sushil Koirala finally readies himself for the job and suddenly this talk emerges of an independent personality at the helm? Just because four commie premiers in a row failed to fulfill the promise that had never really been made seven springs ago?
Amid the diminishing prospects for consensus with deadline extension, Nepali Congress Vice-President Ram Chandra Paudel has come out with a novel idea. He insists that the president, being the guardian of the nation, should himself pick the new prime minister. As someone who endured 17 rounds of legislative balloting and still failed both to gain the top job and ensuring the sturdiness of the democratic process, Poudel understands the perils of a futile pursuit. Perhaps he has far too much faith in the president’s ability to pull off what the king could not, when it comes to exercising guardianship.
What we have today is a crisis of institutions, where the head of state and head of government each believes he is on the right side of history, geography and everything in between. This plays into the hands of those who want everything else but a solution.
In such a situation, half-measures like the president peremptorily picking a prime minister would do little to improve the situation. Instead, President Yadav might want to appoint himself head of government, too, move beyond vacuous expressions of concern and actually try to put things in order. Or would he prefer Prime Minister Bhattarai assuming the presidency as well and pressing ahead?