Saturday, June 21, 2008

Why Girija Prasad Koirala should not be Nepal's first President

Consider this scenario: I am appointed the manager of a building. But, due to my ineptness, I destroy the building completely. Now, I stake my claim to be the manger of the project to build the same building again. In such a scenario, should I be allowed to lead the new building project or shunned away as an inept fool?

Girija Prasad Koirala is no different. No matter what anyone says, he was the undisputed leader of the 1990 movement, rightfully elected to lead the nation away from active monarchy into a vibrant democracy. 18 years later, we are still trying—not to strengthen—but to build democracy in Nepal.

Forget that his coterie, including his moronic daughter, lost the CA elections miserably. Forget that he too would have most likely lost had he contested the CA elections. What Girija Prasad Koirala has done to undermine Nepal and its people goes far beyond any other betrayal that any other Nepali has ever committed.

It was Girija who started the widespread distrust in government by first proclaiming that the Tanakpur understanding with India was not a treaty and later sticking to power despite the Supreme Court ruling that the "understanding" was indeed a treaty. It was Girija that called for early elections despite the Nepali Congress holding a comfortable majority in the first elected parliament in the post-1990 Nepal. It was Girija that alienated and back-stabbed NC stalwarts like Ganeshman Singh and KP Bhattarai. It was Girija that is widely believed to have had a hand in defeating Daman Nath Dhungana, Haribol Bhattarai and other NC loyalists.

Not only that, it was Girija that was at the helm during the dramatic collapse of Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation, having committed treasonous acts like Dhamija deal, Lauda deal etc.

Had Girija led with integrity and insight, Nepal would be a much better place now. Time and again, Girija has worked very hard to prove that he is the worst leader Nepal has ever seen. His lust for power is well known as is his heavy-handedness and utter lack of vision and leadership qualities. More recently, he clearly said that he would drop out of politics after the conclusion of the CA elections. But, despite the miserable loss of the Nepali Congress, he is still sticking to power by hook or by crook.

So what is the point? The point is that Girija Prasad Koirala should not be Nepal's first president at any cost. If he deserved to be the first president, we would not be in the mess we are in today. No Nepali with any sense of pride and nationalistic inclination should support Girija's candidature for president.

But it's never about what the Nepali people want. The big question is what does our ever-so-friendly neighbor want? And if they have it their way, Girija will be the first president of Nepal. How nice. This is what democracy is all about!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Nepal Elections: Reason to Smile or More Reasons to Despair?

Been a while since I last wrote. Perhaps I was fed up with the situation in Nepal. The elections seemed like a dream and things just appeared to be stagnating.

Then the unthinkable happened. The elections did take place. And all indications point toward an empathic victory for the Maoists. Some people seem to be surprised by the Maoist victory, or at least by the margin. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I saw it coming (after all I predicted that elections would not happen in the near future), but the results do not surprise me at all.

Elections are all about energizing your bases and pulling votes away from the swing voters. Each party has a core base that is usually certain to vote for that party and no one else. For example, if I run in an election, my core base would be my immediate family (I am not into politics, remember!). And, for a party or an individual to win, the core base must come out in droves and vote for them.

Now let’s look at whose base was the most energized. The Nepali Congress appeared to take all its cues from the Maoists, compromising on many of its moderately-leaning values, including its position on monarchy. That surely would not energize its core base of moderate voters who, I suspect, are generally traditional and without much desire for radical changes.

The UML’s base is the progressive, left-leaning population that wants radical change. This base is highly energized. The problem, though, is, they are equally, if not more, energized by the Maoist rhetoric. After all, they have seen their UML comrades squander many opportunities by not being able to take and/or stick to a specific position.

Then there are the Maoists. Their core is always energized. After all, it’s supposed to be the culmination of years of struggle for a focused cause. They are not going to vote for anybody else. Instead, they garner the support of much of the left-leaning population.

Just to prove my point, look at the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP). For good or bad, for right or wrong, their whole identity is tied to the king and monarchy. And they gave up their loyalty to the king. Now, why would anyone vote for them? If people want change, they have a clear choice – the Maoists, with whom the RPP can never compete. If people want status quo, they are not nearly energized enough to go out and vote.

Hence, the Maoists win by a big margin. Now we are beginning to hear about fear and intimidation tactics adopted by the Maoists. Well, even if it is true, nobody said anything on the day of the election or the next day. That allegation, in light of the astounding results, seems weak at best.

The big question now is how the Maoists will rule. Will they relinquish their promises to fit in the mainstream and renounce violence, or will they go back to their old ways of fear, intimidation and threats? Logic says that in today’s world, building a North Korea-like communist state is not only impractical, but extremely difficult. After all, if it were that easy, wouldn’t we still see King Gyanendra smiling from the grand halls of his palace?

I think there is reason to be cautiously optimistic. With such a clear mandate, if the Maoists rule with integrity, unbiased judgment and good intentions, good days might be ahead for Nepal. However, history says that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

If there is a need to despair, we can always do that if hopes start fading again. But, for now, I choose to be optimistic and am willing to see, without any preconceived notions, how the events unfold in the coming days and months.