In the United States, most male students from wealthy families live in fraternity houses, without adult supervision. Most of these houses are notorious for irrational exuberance—rambunctious parties, reckless sex, binge drinking, and corrupt behavior.
Nepal’s politics is an unruly and messy frat house where irresponsible and corrupt bullies and urchins live. According to the Global Corruption Barometer 2013, this house is the most corrupt in Nepal. This house lacks adult supervision. Despite their personal flaws, Girija Prasad Koirala and Manmohan Adhikari were adults in Nepali politics and Madhav Nepal was maturing. But after Koirala and Adhikari’s death and Nepal’s loss of gravitas with his becoming prime minister by stealth, the house has no adult left.
Adult supervision is essential for democracy to take root and institutions to develop the capacity to withstand the inevitable volatility in its initial stage. Every country with a stable democracy has had such supervision. For instance, George Washington provided such supervision in the United States, Jawaharlal Nehru in India, and Nelson Mandela in South Africa.
Apparently, Nepal’s frat house is not alone in lacking adult watch, as the recent upheaval in Egypt demonstrates. The deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi ruthlessly bullied his people into Islamization in the irrational exuberance of his victory in the polls. He conveniently misinterpreted the people’s mandate for a democratic government with Islamic orientation for establishing an Islamic caliphate.
The liberal-left alliance, which had fought alongside Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood to remove the deeply entrenched despotic Mubarak regime, opposed his policy. At their call, 17 million people hit the Tahrir Square in Cairo. The alliance asked the military (which had been ruling the country since 1952) to depose Morsi and the general, itching to get back into the saddle again, happily complied.
I do not like what Morsi did. Neither do I like the liberal-left alliance’s appeal to the military to take over. Both sides acted amateurishly. Morsi should have offered food, education, jobs and justice the Egyptians badly need, not the Quran, poverty and division. The alliance should have bent Morsi with people power or removed him in the next election rather than asking the military to intervene.
Well, I prefer elected scoundrels to unelected saints. Power often corrupts both, yet you can throw the former out in the next ballot, but not the latter.
The UCPN (Maoist) room is merciless, remorseless and ethics-less. The big bully in the house misinterpreted the 2008 election verdict to write a democratic constitution with socialist economic orientation for a mandate to impose proletariat dictatorship. To attain his objective, he drove a wedge between ethnic groups, tried to remove the army chief Katuwal, called an indefinite strike on May Day, and insisted on writing a communist constitution. Whenever people tried to stop him in his tracks, he endeavored to poison the already divided society by pitting poor against rich and “dirty” against “clean.”
This bully has been cutting smaller bullies in the room and in the frat house down to size. Frustrated by his insults and shortchanging, a smaller bully in the room split and occupied another room. Another smaller bully, known for his scheming and stunts, has resigned as the deputy head boy and projected it as a personal “sacrifice.” But his real aim is to lure the big bully to follow suit and take the helm with the southern neighbor’s help. The bullies in the UCPN (Maoist) room are doing everything to divide society and weaken institutions to pave the way to their goal of bringing the house under its unassailable control.
The CPN-Maoist room is clueless in addition to being merciless, remorseless and ethics-less. The occupants of this room still live in the 1940s. They want to destroy the frat house with a wrecking ball immediately and replace it with a new one built in their own vision. So they do not want the frat house’s assembly to be elected to write a new statute. Lost in political wilderness, the CPN-Maoist room is prepared to do anything to attract attention and extract a fair share of power and ill-gotten resources from its alter ego.
The Nepali Congress room is leaderless, spineless and speechless. In this room, a reckless bully, who lost the race for the head boy is pushing the sheepish head boy against the wall in a perennial dogfight, which has broken the windows, doors and china. The bullies in the UCPN (Maoist) room have used, bent and trashed this room to their advantage. The head boy and the reckless bully in the room are speech-deprived. Of all, this room is in the most pitiable condition at the moment.
In the CPN-UML room, you have principle-less and rudderless members of the fraternity. They change colors like a chameleon with the direction of the wind. They could align with the NC room as easily as with the UCPN (Maoist) room. Three-cornered, the room takes positions only to abandon them midcourse. Though shocked by the departure of minority mates recently, it remains more resilient than any other room, thanks to the sting of spilt it constantly remembers. Though resilience is an adult trait, lack of principles and rudder is not.
Then you have the Madheshi Front room: Principle-less and patriotism-less. The room outdoes the CPN-UML room in being without principles, and is unrivalled in lacking loyalty to the frat house or the land on which it sits. The sole objective of this room’s occupants is to secure a big room for themselves, called Madhesh, irrespective of what happens elsewhere and to cut their nose to spite their own face. You will not hear a word from this room against border encroachment or managed inundation of their land by the southern neighbor to save its own.
Neighbors—immediate and distant—find this disarray in the frat house convenient to peddle their interest and theories. The frat members have no sense of dignity and protocol. They feel proud to work under outsiders’ instructions and say so. Only last week, all the bullies of the frat house lined up at a local hotel for ‘darshan’ of the southern neighbor’s representative, who was on a flying trip. There were times when senior frat boys refused to queue up for such ‘darshans’ and insisted on a proper tête-à-tête. How times have changed!
One of the two things must happen for the frat house to have adult supervision. First, one of the old urchins should shed his churlish attitude and childish behavior, begin to grow as a principled pragmatist with a national vision, and rally the house around his vision. Second, the old boys should step aside to let new boys in the house grow into adulthood and acquire the requisite adult traits.
Otherwise, Nepal’s frat house will remain bitterly divided, incredibly messy, appallingly misbehaved and inordinately interfered with by the neighbors. The frat house theatrics and excesses are charming to see but gut-wrenching to live with. I hope sooner than later, the house will turn itself from a disorderly bastion of shame, corruption, embarrassment and ignominy into a respectable fountain of ideas, dignity and discipline.
Published on 2013-07-14 01:46:48