Bam Dev Gautam’s prime ministerial ambitions are notorious. What’s new about it is the fact that some of his colleagues in the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) are equally itching to see him get the top job. The possibility of a constitutional amendment is being discussed to facilitate Gautam’s ascension to the premiership from the upper chamber of the national parliament. Do we really want to go to such lengths for one man?
Gautam, whose political trajectory has long stalled at the roadblock called deputy prime minister, has consistently refused to go to the National Assembly without the top executive job. Pathetic as that insistence and the NCP’s readiness to entertain it are, the real tragedy perhaps lies in having to point that out.
In retrospect, the proposal last year to have the sitting NCP member for Kathmandu-7 constituency resign to make way for Gautam’s candidacy in a by-election to the lower house was more respectable. That trial balloon was shot down amid the growing camaraderie between Gautam and NCP co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal as senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal mounted a virtual insurrection against Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli.
That Gautam would be back so soon to trigger such a blatantly disgraceful national debate is beside the point. There must be some deep-seated dynamics in our systemic set-up that keeps bringing such things up.
Poor health or poorer optics, Oli has made clear he won’t quit the premiership even if you tried your best pulling him off his seat kicking and screaming. Extricating him after he’s cold and stiff – God forbid – isn’t something political – much less human – decency would permit us to contemplate. Letting Oli complete his five-year tenure and allowing the voters to decide would be the most prudent course. But apparently not to our NCP satraps.
The just party can’t think straight. Some former Maoists want the speaker’s post as a good-faith demonstration that they have been wholly taken over by the former Unified Marxist-Leninists. Many here must be excited by the ongoing developments, regardless of who or what Gautam represents. Other ex-Maoists, including many senior ones, seem happy as long as they enjoy the spoils. Who knows how many among them believe Gautam can butter their bread more lavishly?
Many ex-UML members are outraged at the inability of the former Maoists to be content at the 40-percent threshold they agreed to during the party’s unification. Then there is the continuing process of leaders switching allegiances between the two camps that aren’t even supposed to exist, shamelessly camouflaging individual considerations as ones of ideological urgency.
In such a scenario, you can understand the reluctance of people like ex-premiers Jhal Nath Khanal and Madhav Nepal to throw their hat in the ring while Dahal’s is sitting right in the middle.
Still, you can’t avoid the eerie sensation that if Gautam is so anxious to get his turn and has the kind of backing in his party that merits talk of amending the constitution, things must be moving in all directions beneath the surface.