Saturday, January 19, 2013

Lineal Freebies & Fainthearted Leadership

Pradip Nepal
Well, there is one way we can have our political class candidly engage with the Indians without quaking in their boots. Let’s just elect/nominate/appoint/anoint childless Nepalis to positions of power.
No, this is not another of Maila Baje’s wacky ruminations. It comports with what Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) leader Pradip Nepal thinks. Well, sort of.
Speaking to reporters at CPN-UML headquarters the other day, Nepal suggested that our political leaders tend to hold their – even justifiable, one might add – ire on India for fear of losing (or presumably not getting, in the first place) free scholarships for their kids.
Forget whether Pradip Nepal is speaking from personal experience, venting his regrets or asserting his righteous indignation here. Also set aside whether he may be trying to settle scores with that surnamesake former prime minister from his party or may be attempting to explain the extent of the malady to a country fixated on offending individuals who tend to hit the headlines here and there.
Pradip Nepal actually speaks to a striking phenomenon gripping our politics ever since we started practicing the thing in the early Fifties. During elections and insurgencies alike, politicians of all hues have positioned themselves profoundly against accumulated instances of perceived and palpable Indian machinations. When they reach positions of power to do something about it, they just seem to go wobbly.
Offers of free education for your offspring at prestigious institutions of Indian higher education become an enticing proposition to Nepali leaders, administrators and enablers of all sorts. For one thing, the transaction does not contain the odiousness of outright bribery. (There must be something in the kid that allows him/her to maintain the requisite academic standards over multiple years.)
The pursuit of knowledge in our society, moreover, is a striving that is less susceptible to ever-lingering suspicions over means and motives. (It’s not as if you’re siphoning off foreign-donated food and medicine meant, say, for flood-relief camps.)
The likelihood of securing intergenerational loyalties comes complete with a greater scope for plausible deniability, should questions ever be raised. (The most ideologically liberal offspring might feel some level of guilt for having enjoyed such privilege, but he or she is very unlikely to go to the extent of repudiating the earned degree.) Childlessness, in this sense, might really accentuate cleanliness in inter-state political relations.
Yet the Indians, like many preponderant powers in their respective regions, have the ability to buy loyalty, tepid acquiescence or outright silence on matters pertaining to their national interest. Indeed, they even buy criticism as long as it can help deflect from the real issues at hand.
For influential Nepalis, given the nature of the bilateral relationship, the threat of frozen bank accounts, resurrection of tax claims or general exposure to the underworldly shadiness of India’s punitive resources on the streets of Kathmandu all act as stimulants or deterrents.
So it would be the height of naiveté to think that the Indians – during their full-blown quest to assert global ambitions –  would have no way of ensnaring Nepali leaders that do not have children.
Yet you are forced to focus on one more reason why Sushil Koirala might be having such a hard time becoming prime minister.