The president of the pro-monarchist, pro-Hindu statehood Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal (RPP-N), who led his party into fourth position in the newly elected constituent assembly, became the first leader to name members in the proportional representation category. But he ignited a firestorm within.
Disputes over how the 24 members were chosen have reached a point where the principal dissident, prominent constitutional lawyer Bal Krishna Neupane, has taken the party to court. Ordinarily, the episode would have provided ample opportunity for rivals to ridicule the RPP-N as a repository of reprobates irrelevant to new Nepal, notwithstanding this last gasp. But, then, Kamal Thapa chose to dispense with early on what would rankle the three bigger parties a little longer in the game.
When the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) submitted its list of 84 names the other day, key aspirant Ram Kumari Jhankri was aggrieved by her exclusion. If anything, she said, the experience confirmed to her what she had long heard others say: politics is a dirty game.
Actor Bhuwan KC was more sanguine. Insisting he would not leave the UML, he pledged to continue to toil for the party and its cause. Yet he couldn’t help preface his reaction to the list with this brazen declaration: “It is natural that citizens are angered as their dream of seeing Bhuwan KC as a lawmaker could not be fulfilled.” The Nepali Congress and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist won’t fare any better when they submit their lists.
Now, don’t get Maila Baje wrong. Politics is no charity work (although the analogy for these purposes has long lost its bearing). People join campaigns and work their rear ends off to elect parties and leaders in the expectation that their contributions somehow would be recognized later. Yet there’s only so much that can fit the goody bag. Everyone is free to harbor the level of ambition they desire. But no benefactor is obligated to accommodate everyone and everything, simply because the sheer impossibility of doing so.
If Jhankri is miffed that she lost out to a moneyed lady, she can hardly be faulted. In 2008, Jhankri declined the party’s nomination to focus on her responsibilities in the UML’s student wing. She then made history by becoming the first woman to lead a student organization. This time around, UML leaders considered it fit to keep her out of the whittled-down list.
These same leaders also thought the party would be served better by political actors than by a celebrity like KC. And, as for Neupane, those familiar with his road to fame would probably better understand why he chose to drag the party all the way where he did.
In making their decisions, RPP-N and UML leaders were guided by all kinds of considerations, shady and stellar alike. The outcome may have been controversial but it is not criminal.
To be sure, those who made the decisions recognized the risks to their own reputations. But they also understood how much damage the complainants would do to themselves by breaking out sulking and moping.
Now, is this fair? No. But let’s not pretend it’s not fun to watch.