Sunday, June 26, 2016

Doctoring The Body Politic

Dr. Govinda K.C.
Lok Man Singh Karki
When Dr. Govinda K.C. demanded the impeachment of Lok Man Singh Karki, the last thing he expected was a prompt official diagnosis of the state of his own mental health.
Yet that was what the prominent orthopedic surgeon got in return for pressing parliament to start proceedings to dislodge the chief of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) for gross dereliction of duty.
Responding to the anti-corruption crusader’s latest campaign, a spokesman for the CIAA went beyond proffering a diagnosis and urged the government to provide prompt and appropriate medical treatment to Dr. K.C.
It’s not hard to understand why the anti-graft watchdog would growl and bite so sharply. Forget the success rate of Dr. K.C.’s hunger strikes. Who does he think he is to so blatantly encroach upon the CIAA’s jurisdiction? If that body’s actions, or lack thereof, were a problem, there are proper remedies for the sovereign people to pursue.
If all it took to fight abuse of authority was for someone going on an indefinite hunger strike, we wouldn’t have had to keeping on bestowing on the CIAA the constitutional responsibility to do so regardless of the political system, right?
And, moreover, doesn’t this penchant for starving yourself go against the Hippocratic oath every doctor, we are told, is supposed to breath in and out at all times? Now, Dr. K.C. isn’t his own patient so that oath doesn’t count, you might say. Okay. But, still, why does such a prominent medical expert get to harm himself, regardless of the nobility of the cause, when millions of Nepalis are in dire need of his healing touch?
Far more people have the ability to deprive themselves of vital nourishment at will than to use surgical and nonsurgical means to treat musculoskeletal trauma, spine diseases, sports injuries, degenerative diseases, infections, tumors, and congenital disorders. What happened to the concept of optimizing the utilization of a nation’s scarce resources?
Yet the issue Dr. K.C. has raised requires investigation at a broader level. Consider the career trajectory of Karki. During the final decade of the bad old partyless system, he was one of the last ‘direct hires’ of the palace. Which meant he didn’t have to go through the normal civil service procedures – exam, interviews, background checks – mandatory for the rest of us schlubs.
Although that degenerate system collapsed a few years after Karki’s induction, many of its ills persisted. During the early multiparty years, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala wanted Karki as the top bureaucrat in the lucrative water resources ministry so bad that he was ready to sacrifice his loyalist minister, Baldev Sharma Majgaiya.
During the much-maligned royal regime, Karki rose to become chief secretary and was accused of aiding and abetting the subversion of democracy and the suppression of the people. Yet half a dozen years later, Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal lobbied so hard in favor of Karki’s appointment as CIAA chief that no one could just say no. To cut a long story short, how does someone like Karki continue exist in our body politic? Maybe Dr. K.C. has a diagnosis?

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Right? Wrong? It Depends.

As Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli insists on ‘implementing’ the Constitution within a defined structure and specific time-frame, two of his six deputies find themselves in an interesting position. Kamal Thapa of the Rastriya Prajantantra Party Nepal and Chitra Bahadur K.C. of the Rastriya Janamorcha vociferously oppose two key planks of our new Basic Law.
To their credit, both deputy prime ministers are carried by the courage of their convictions. Thapa has been a tireless campaigner against secularism and federalism. For long, K.C. was almost the lone voice against federalism on the left end of the political spectrum. Bucking political correctness and popularity, they have won the grudging admiration of opponents.
Ordinarily, such convergence between those two coalition partners should have posed a perilous roadblock to Oli. Yet the prime minister is unperturbed. He doesn’t even joke about it in the way he does most other things. He has left it to his minions to point out the crude inanity of it all. What kind of morality allows you to be part of a government whose core agenda you oppose?
Thapa never tires of telling party members and supporters that he would not rest until secularism and federalism are scrapped. Same old, same old. Things, however, are getting interesting on the Rastriya Janamorcha side. After the party announced a two-month-long movement against federalism, some K.C. loyalists can be heard fuming against the tendency in certain quarters to equate their struggle with the one launched by the one-time royalists.
The structure and character of the Rastriya Janamorcha’s movement is pro-people and in keeping with the spirit of People’s Movement II, party spokespeople maintain. The Rastriya Janamorcha sees the RPPN’s movement as going against popular aspirations and the spirit of the times. Essentially, K.C.’s party believe the ex-royalists are waging a religious battle with all its attendant ills for the country and people.
When you have single-issue parties in power as part of a broad coalition, you need to distinguish between – to borrow Mao Zedong’s phraseology – the principal and secondary contradictions every step of the way. If the Rastriya Janamorcha is correct to see federalism being against Nepali nationalism and territorial integrity, then it must at least concede the right of the RPPN to see secularism as an equal threat. Amid the flimsiest layer of common ground, the Maoists would have found it easier to forge a working alliance. But, again, K.C. is not a Maoist for a reason.
So the Rastriya Janamorcha has to justify its participation in the Oli government. And where else to turn but the flip-flopper par excellence? Didn’t Oli’s old party – the MaLe – send legislators to the partyless assembly with the express purpose of exposing the inequities of the palace-led Panchayat system? Didn’t Oli’s current party – the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist – come out in critical support of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1990 before deciding to become a full and inalienable part of the mainstream?
In an important way, K.C. is doing Thapa’s job for him. Does that mean the RPPN should in any way feel morally compromised vis-à-vis the Rastriya Janamorcha? Certainly not. Thapa knows that if republicanism, secularlism and federalism can somehow be retroactively instilled into the spirit of the People’s Movement, popular will really is in the eye of the beholder.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Spinning Our Heads In The Shadows

Even for a populace inured to clandestineness as the central political contrivance of the soil, the prevailing confusion over the latest ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ is getting a bit out of hand.
Did Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli reach a secret three-point agreement with Pushpa Kamal Dahal pledging to hand over power to the Maoist chairman after the passage of the budget? It depends on who you ask. Oli acts as if he’s heard the term for the first time, while Dahal thinks he has something substantial signed in triplicate. Everybody else is either confident one way or the other or is scratching their heads.
Granted, it took nine years for the secret letters the Ranas and the Nehru regime exchanged alongside the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship to come to light. But at least they did. In today’s age of openness and transparency, we don’t know how Nepal really became a republic. You think that is a mere historical footnote? Try telling us how long you think we will continue to have a president.
This episode is far more serious. From all outward appearances, over a month ago, Oli looked like a man ready to step down. Dahal seemed poised to return to Singha Darbar, with Sher Bahadur Deuba, the freshly elected Nepali Congress president becoming kingmaker. Barely 24 hours later, Dahal made a 180 and pledged his party’s support to the Oli-led coalition government.
The two men sealed a nine-point deal on April 29 in which Oli pledged, among other things, that the government would withdraw all ‘politically motivated’ cases against Maoist leaders and cadres, what really riled the ex-rebels all along. Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhal Nath Khanal and Bam Dev Gautam Oli’s principal rivals in the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) also reportedly pushed Oli to commit to hand over power to Dahal after the budget’s passage.
As Dahal stepped back, it became clear that it was only to reunite with most of the Maoist groups that had broken away from him in the past. In retrospect, Dahal needed that reprieve more than Oli. Cognizant of the favor he extended to Dahal, Oli seemed secure enough to continue selling his dreams – on land, air and sea. (The discrediting of Deuba was no small byproduct.)
So Oli comfortably dismissed the notion of a separate shadowy three-point agreement. If there was one, the premier said, it had to be the draft that he rejected. Of course, Madhav Nepal and Khanal, in their own ways, continue to insist that a power-sharing deal exists. But you could see that as normal politicking.
Then, at a party meeting the other day, Oli suggested that India and the United States were out to get him, his government and his party. The next day, the CPN-UML came out with an official statement denying that Oli ever uttered words even remotely making such an allegation. In fact, the prime minister is still said to be seething at the timing of the ‘conspiracy’ against him, coming as it did on the eve of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States.
The report was carried by a prominent Nepali daily, which, predictably, spawned creative adaptations on online portals. Who ‘planted’ such a story – if that what this was? The Chinese? If so, they seem to have really made inroads in Nepal.
What about the Indians and Americans themselves – either individually or in concert? After all, Sikkim-ization and Bhutan-ization are so yesterday. Nepali-ization has its own characteristics and traits, which are taking shape here and losing it there. One discernible element seems to be the imperative of leaving our collective heads spinning in perpetuity.