Tuesday, March 21, 2023

All the president’s men


After the unfolding of a high voltage political drama, brought about by hung parliament situation post November elections, the eyes are now focused on the chair of the president. Who is going to occupy that chair?

Having tolerated two controversial presidents, Federal Democratic Republic Nepal is eagerly expecting for the third one in a row. Besides family links and similar tenure, if there is anything common between two presidents then it has to do with the fact that both ascended to the power without any road-map of their own. They became presidents not because of incidence, not even coincidence; it is sheer because of happendence. They just happened to be the presidents.

The country is waiting for the next worst president so that some justifications can be made on Rt Honourable Madame President Mrs Bidya Devi Bhandari, similar to the way she justified her predecessor Dr Ram Baran Yadav. In management parlance, there is saying, “Any decision can be justified by giving an inferior alternative”.

Sheremonial vs. Olinkarik president

Probably, the cartoonist who dubbed Shere-monial vs. Olinkarik president for English version of ceremonial and Nepali equivalent alankarik, eloquently summarized the ongoing debate on electing the president in a two simple phrases. Are we going to have a NC backed president or an UML protégé?

UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli has already declared “my way or highway” policy on consensual president. Nepali Congress (NC) is doing everything and anything under the sky to secure that prized possession.

Consensual and comfortable president

Fed up with the past track records of the presidents, there is no less a call for having a consensual or even a comfortable president, hinting at a non-partisan president. Given the extreme degree of politicization and political game being played at a zero-sum level, search for a consensual president in present day Nepal can be a thing next to impossible. UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli has already declared “my way or highway” policy on consensual president. Nepali Congress (NC) is doing everything and anything under the sky to secure that prized possession. Did they give confidence vote to PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal "Prachanda" for nothing? Or to trigger a debate on who is the legitimate opposition in the parliament?

NC critics have assumed that confidence vote to Prachanda is primarily motivated by its greed for power, to neutralize Oli’s grip, a chyaankhe daau (or a bait) or even a shameless demonstration of anti-democratic culture. The opponents within NC are now claiming the move to be a mistake. They are asking that NC should play the role of a responsible opposition inside the parliament. After an inevitable defeat for the seats of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, NC establishment is now issuing subtle threats to PM Prachanda. It is time for him to decide which side to take – saving or destroying the Constitution, for or against the democracy? Clearly, Prachanda is at the receiving end.    

The end of Prachanda

PM Prachanda is squeezed at the middle. At the one end, he cannot immediately betray Oli for the words and commitments given to him, for gratuitously offering him the seats of the PM which NC denied to him. At the other end, a revolutionary leader like him cannot play like a puppet – dancing to Oli’s tunes. A political commentator has recently labelled him more like “a circus manager” than a PM heading a rag-tag coalition government. An MP from Terai-Madhes eloquently described his cognitive dissonance as of a woman “having an affair with Terai-Madhes, but living together with Nepali Congress and finally, getting married with UML.” Someone tweeted, “who knows he may demand a full five year term guarantee, in lieu of Maoists votes, in the upcoming elections to the president?”

Excitement galore

Excitement and entertainment is waiting for us before elections to the president. Broadly, we see two political configurations taking place. The first one is headed by NC expecting back-ups from smaller, fragmented and disgruntled Terai-Madhes political parties. To fool the public, safeguarding the Constitution and loktantra is their avid mantra. There are rebelling voices within NC as well. The second one is headed by CPN-UML backed by rajabadis and awasarbadis (opportunists) cashing in on the voices of frustrated, unemployed, urbanite middle class, primarily harping the chords of nationalism, delivery of public service and good governance. I suppose, it is former PM Lokendra Bahadur Chand who labelled UML leader Oli as Putin of Nepal. Let us hope we don’t end up like Ukraine.    

Published on 23 January 2023