Sunday, July 20, 2014

Now, What Really Ails Us?

Those petrified by the possibility of the newly elected chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) leading us on a rightward lurch to the past probably should start pushing the panic button just a bit harder.
Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, citing his fragile health, has let us know quite clearly that he is a man in a hurry. Those of us wondering why he was so desperate for the top job – and could band together such a loyal following – have not got our answers yet. So there must be more excitement in store.
Among the first non-Nepalis to congratulate Oli were Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ally, Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah. While the alacrity of their gestures must have raised the fears of our anti-rightist camp, the Indian premier has waded into fresh controversy over his country’s putative plan for our waters. The story remains the same. Topography dictates that our rivers flow south, which we can do nothing about. But surely we don’t want the Indians to be the only non-Nepalis fishing in it, even though no one else seems to be seriously interested.
As the maneuverings on that front unfold, there is no telling what a man so conscious of his mortality can wreak. Oli and his principal ally Bam Dev Gautam once had a soft corner for the monarchy. We don’t know how the consistency of that sentiment has changed over the years. On the other end of the spectrum, Oli isn’t quite thrilled about the Maoists, either. Thus his public quest must be to conquer the middle ground of national politics from the Nepali Congress.
Madhav Kumar Nepal, mocked for mounting what was perceived as a futile challenge, actually presented a vigorous show. In the end, the votes from western Nepal seemed to have made the difference. A Ukraine-like polarization might not be in the cards here, but the fissures have opened up in a traditionally fractious party, which are bound to be felt outside.
Oli sounded magnanimous in victory. “Running a party is not akin to taking part in a marathon and party leaders are not marathon runners,” he said. “It is rather a team spirit and mainly the party leaders unitedly take the party ahead while adhering to the party’s ideology and keeping the organizational setup intact.”
Congratulating Oli, Nepal said he had begun feeling that it was a mistake to take part in the election by forming panels and groups. “I sincerely hope that those who have won will not marginalize the defeated and those who have lost will extend their helping hand to the victorious.”
Having made a campaign push to modernize the UML, Oli got an early taste of the extent of his challenges at the first post-election meeting of the party. The new leader might not be able to empower his panel to the detriment of his rival’s.
Still, that might not pose too much of a problem. Going by the past, it’s hard to see panel members suddenly become firm in their loyalty or conviction. With proper blandishments, the balance can always shift toward Oli, especially with Gautam on his side.
Despite all this, you’re still forced to wonder. An ailing prime minister and an ailing prime minister in waiting. And we’re still asking what ails our country?