By Maila Baje
If things keep going this way, the government is likely to evoke more pity than fury from the people.
A matter that ordinarily might have been addressed administratively and diplomatically has prompted Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli to issue a rare public apology. Coming from the head of a tone-deaf government, that means a lot.
But perhaps not enough. Few Nepalis really believe that the Indians are deliberately sending poisoned fruits and vegetables into Nepali homes. The reality that the narrative has caught on so ferociously underscores the vulnerability of the government more than the vileness of the account.
Desperate to divert attention from its internal disarray, the main opposition Nepali Congress is compelled to test the limits of creativity. They are hurling everything at the government in the hope that something will stick. Tragically for the Oli government, much of the muck is starting to stick. Other critics – organized and otherwise – cannot afford not to jump in.
After successive bungles, Oli this time took the route of regret, which is revealing, to say the least. Maybe the Indian Embassy letter did not originally merit the prime minister’s attention. Carried away by his own eloquence amid the building momentum, Oli was perhaps too ebullient in denying the existence of such a missive. By the time it emerged that the said letter did exist, the crisis had ballooned enough to explode in the government’s face.
Still, you wonder why the real horror underlying these happenings remains hidden. If the Indians are poisoning us with the full complicity of a government we elected as the culmination of a New Delhi-charted course, why is our wrath so narrowly focused?
That’s the kind of question Industry Commerce and Supplies Minister Matrika Yadav and Minister of Communication and Information Technology Gokul Banskota are beginning to ask. Did the Nepali Congress supply organic fruits and vegetables Yadav wondered the other day, after steadfastly refusing to take the fall. Banskota was more extensive in pondering what the Nepali Congress might really be doing? Glorifying B.P. Koirala during the day and Comrade Biplav at night, perhaps?
Not that the Oli government doesn’t deserve what has been coming its way. The hype of the Unified Marxist-Leninists’ unity with the Maoists was a thinly veiled electoral ruse. Out of alternatives, Nepalis thought it just might work. After the factions did unite into the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), the two putative co-chairs couldn’t even christen the new organization right. With the abbreviation having become part of the formal party name, popular abhorrence was bound to overflow. (Moral: Don’t rub it in after taking us for a ride.)
With each passing day, the NCP’s fissures have only widened. In the beginning, the rivals acted as if nothing in the history of amalgamations was so solid. The narrative worked for a prime minister who was anxious to consolidate his power as well as for his rivals, who knew it would eventually hurt Oli the most. Factional allegiances are said to be shifting to the benefit of former Maoist supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, but the former Fierce One doesn’t look so sure.
In not so hushed tones, Oli’s other ‘strength’ is being talked about – his flexibility to mount a U-turn, should the situation so demand. Among today’s satraps, after all, the skinniness of his commitment to republicanism, secularism and federalism remains unsurpassed. Maybe collective national pity is what Oli is waiting for.