By MR Josse – NEW YORK, NY: Recently, I had lamented the incorrigible state of political play in Nepal, ten years post-‘loktantra’ – supposedly transformed into a ridiculously happy republican Utopia. What the Nepali people have had to savor, instead, is the very opposite, as Nepal has degenerated into a classic dystopia.
Take the enigma of the abrupt cancellation of President Bidhya Devi Bhandari’s official mission to India, including a visit to Ujjain for the ‘kumbh’ mela. Though initially amused at the thought of a Marxist-Leninist worthy gung-ho on partaking in a ‘shahi snan’ at a hoary and quintessentially Hindu religious fest, my subdued mirth morphed into near apoplexy learning why.
The K.P Oli-led government decided to abort it convinced that India, through its envoy in Kathmandu, had been working overtime attempting to topple it and replacing that with one led by Prachanda or NC’s Sher Bahadur Deuba, with the Madeshi parties in tow.
The alleged plot came a cropper, however, when – following palavers between Prachanda and Oli – the former reportedly acquiesced because (a) he was attracted to Oli’s offer to take executive charge only after the annual budget and plans presented by the incumbent government to parliament were adopted; (b) he did not wish to scupper the many key agreements that Nepal had entered with China during Oli’s official visit to Beijing; finally, (c) he did not want to be perceived as a symbol of perpetual mayhem and national instability.
While Deuba has hardly emerged from all the furtive politicking smelling roses, the political uproar resulted in one notable unintended casualty: Deep Kumar Upadhayay, a NC functionary appointed ambassador to India by late PM Sushil Koirala. From the mess, the NC comes across as reflexively pro-India, as ever; ditto for the loyal Madeshis.
Upadhayay, as news reports go, was recalled by an Oli enraged that the envoy should argue for Bhandari’s visit going ahead – even when the government in Kathmandu took the step only after it was persuaded India was actually plotting its overthrow. Among other things, it once again reminds us of the perils of appointing political big-wigs as ambassadors, not least when governments increasingly tend, in the glorious condition of ‘loktantra’, to be revolving-door coalitions!
Besides the political/diplomatic gaucheries manifested in the above tale, there are other dimensions of the current sticky mélange that scream for attention. One is that as a result of the bile injected into Nepal-India arteries, the government decided to turn down an Indian offer to build Nepal’s second international airport in Nijgadh, near the Nepal-India border, and to push ahead on its own steam. A sound decision, I dare say.
Another noteworthy aspect of the latest Nepal-India standoff relates to reports/speculation that China’s discreet involvement in the matter has been effective. If some such accounts are to be believed, the Chinese embassy made its concern manifest that the agreements recently signed between Nepal and China could be subverted if Oli were toppled and a new government put in its place.
Be the veracity of those accounts as they may, it is fresh evidence that Sino-Indian relations are hardly infused by bonhomie, particularly where there is direct geo-strategic competition for influence such as there has always been – and always will be – in Nepal. (Recall the revealing title of Girilal Jain’s tome: ‘India meets China in Nepal’? )
RIPE FOR TRYANNY?
The frenzied American political season continues to be buffeted by stormy weather, particularly on the Republican side where front-runner Donald Trump – the ‘hater-in-chief’ – hit main challenger Ted Cruz (and John Kasich) for a ‘six’ at last week’s Indiana primary. That dramatic turn of events led to Cruz/Kasich suspending their campaign, transforming Trump into the virtual Republican Party nominee for the November 2016 presidential sweepstakes.
Oddly enough, that spectacular showing also had the deeply polarizing effect on party members, post-Indiana, divided as they now are into the ‘hold-your-nose’ set and the ‘never Trump’ camp. As on this writing, the rift in the GOP has grown deeper and threatens to upset the July convention as Trump refuses to rule out blocking House Speaker Paul D. Ryan from serving as the convention chairman. Ryan, thus far, has not endorsed a defiant Trump who fulminated: “I’m going to do what I have to do – I have millions of people who voted for me.”
On the Democratic side, challenger Bernie Sanders delivered a blow to front runner Hillary Clinton in Indiana and subsequently has not just narrowed Clinton’s delegate lead but has vowed to continue campaigning until the Washington DC primary on 14 June. Meanwhile, she has declared that “I won’t run an ugly race” a reference to Trump’s campaign style – before Trump’s tirades against her husband’s infidelities, for which he accused her of acting as an enabler to her husband.
Below the shrill and rising crescendo in personal attacks in this year’s political season lurk some very disturbing and fundamental political questions. Most arresting of them, in my view, is whether, as Andrew Sullivan argues in a long and brilliant essay in the ‘New York’ magazine, “Democracies end when they are too democratic. And right now, America is a breeding ground for tyranny.”
Sullivan’s case is that America is, in fact, “ripe for tyranny” – building his case largely on Trump’s amazing electoral success which he says is fuelled by the most powerful engine for a mass movement: the evocation of hatred. Sullivan is so disturbed by Trump’s triumphalism that he even recommends that Republican elites “need to disarm their party’s candidate. They should resist any temptation to loyally back the nominee or sit this election out.
“They must take the fight to Trump at every opportunity, unite with Democrats and Independents against him and be prepared to sacrifice one election in order to save their party and their country” before “our hyperdemocracy leads the stumping, frustrated, angry voter towards the chimerical panacea of Trump.”
Over and out.