Elections are meant to give one victory and the other defeat. But sometimes, victory and defeat get into your head, and you end up destroying yourself immediately or in the near future. The victor needs to heed the Hindu precept: A wise person should not be arrogant in victory and diffident in defeat.
In the just-held general elections, this is what Nepal needs in the victory of the left alliance and the defeat of the democratic alliance.
The general election is over. Though the votes still being counted, people have already spoken and the picture has become clear. The left alliance, mainly of the CPN (UML) and the CPN (Maoist Center), is on the way to a comfortable majority in the parliament and in six provinces out of seven.
Elections are won or lost based on several tangible and intangible things. They include ideology, the performance of the outgoing government, the length of the outgoing party in power, external factors such as war, foreign relations and strength of the opponent and internal factors such as the message and unity of a political party.
Krishna Adhikari, a Nepali Congress Party supporter and my nephew, has rightly identified reasons why the NCP slid from the first position in the last general election to the third position in the general election whose vote counting is still going on. Because the list is already exhaustive, I do not think anything else needs to be added to it. But it would be illustrative to set it in context and highlight some of the reasons.
Adhikari says the NCP has lost the election not only because the CPN (UML) formed an electoral alliance with the Maoists but also because of 10 other reasons, as follows:
- False allegation against the retired Chief Justice Sushila Karki
- Injustice meted out to DIG Navaraj Silwal
- Higher priority to the panel over the party
- Zero organizational work
- Zero ideological education
- Growing crowd of opportunists, venal and disloyal party activists
- Prevalence of thug culture in the party and inertia of committed workers
- Lack of interest among the party leaders to understand people’s aspirations
- Failure to reach long-term and populist programs to people
- Incompetent, ignorant and arrogant leadership
All these points are valid. The only three other things I wish to add and explain are as follows:
- The jumbo cabinet as the symbol of misuse and corruption
- Lack of vision in the NCP leadership
- Inability to speak out when India imposed an economic blockade causing hardships for people.
However, it would be incorrect to say that the left alliance won the election only due to the NCP’s weaknesses. The UML has been the best-organized party at the grassroots, and its alliance with the Maoist Center gave it added strength. But what helped the left alliance foremost were KP Oli’s vision and his standing up to India.
You need a dream and the determination to realize it and go beyond. When he was prime minister for nearly a year at the head of the CPN (UML) and the CPN (Maoist Center), Oli had shared his vision: Road and rail network with China, use of Chinese ports for transit, tuin-free Nepal in two years, piped gas in every kitchen, and a ship Nepal can call its own.
Oli’s opponents and political pundits associated with them had ridiculed Oli. They had gone to the extent of labeling him as insane, who should be taken to Ranchi mental sanatorium. Even some of his party colleagues had thought he had lost his marbles. But I had defended Oli in these pages at that time. I had written then that what he said were within the realm of possibility for Nepal.
For instance, the ship. I had applied for a job when Nepal had leased a ship and named it Narendra Laxmi when I was looking for a job as a young man. If Oli promised to have another Narendra Laxmi after 40 years of the first Narendra Laxmi, how was it insanity? It was lack of vision of his opponents and political pundits associated with them.
Increased connectivity with China is feasible and should be promoted. A Chinese technical team has already visited Nepal and found the increased road and rail links possible. They will increase trade and economic cooperation between the two countries. They could at least be insurance against any obstruction of supplies from the south. If the cost is comparative to and from the Indian ports, such links will make Chinese ports viable as transit points for Nepal as well.
The piped gas to every kitchen is expensive and time-consuming but not impossible. In the UK kitchens, the gas comes from Russia and Ukraine through pipes. For the cost conscious people, pipe-delivered gas is much cheaper than the bullet-delivered in the long run. If Oli can control only a small portion of leakage from the public coffers, he will have more resources than he needs to make Nepal tuin-free in the next 3 to 5 years, if not in two years.
But the NCP leadership forgot what Poet Laxmi Prasad Devkota has written: You must have the goal of touching the moon. It forgot how John F Kennedy dreamed in 1961 of sending a man to the moon and in 1969, the United States landed a man there. When Kennedy said it, it had sounded as incredible and insane as KP Oli’s dreams.
Indeed, Oli might have taken an insane risk by calling the Indian economic blockade of 2015-16 as such. India, the hegemon in South Asia, is a decisive influence in Nepal due Indian dominance of Nepal’s economic, cultural and political factors. While the pussy-footed NCP leaders blamed a few Madheshi activists for it to remain in the good books of New Delhi, Oli called a spade a spade.
I am not suggesting that we should have adversarial relations with India. We need close, friendly and cooperative relations with the rest of the world, especially with our immediate neighbors. But such relations should be based on mutual respect. But the Nepali people elect their leaders to serve them and their national interest, not someone else’s.
This time, the Nepali people have rewarded Oli with a victory considering his dream and his guts to stand up to India on their behalf. Now the ball is in Oli’s court. Now he needs to do two things: One, remember what Poet Lekha Nath Paudel has said: The tree that bears fruit is always bent. He must show humility and magnanimity in victory because he needs cooperation from other parties to realize his dream.
Two, he must avoid corrupt transactional politics and continue with his transformational politics, which he had started with his patience and push to promulgate the new constitution in 2015, defying the pressure from different quarters. It will do him and the Nepali people good. The Nepali people will see some progress and Oli and his party will not be pulverized in five years, as the NCP has been this time.
By the way, this is not an application to Oli for a job. I am beyond that stage. I will be pleased if Oli keeps the promises he has made to the people before this general election.