By Maila Baje
It’s simultaneously amusing and appalling to witness the political establishment and its opponents wallow in the almost same aimless self-assurance.
At least some elements in the power structure are candid enough to acknowledge their malaise and drift. Not that discounting their inability to unwillingness to do anything about it does us much good, though.
The biliousness in the camp of campaigners and activists that have proliferated to proffer alternatives to the system is aggravating. Generally operating under the banner against corruption, these organizations, associations and individuals represent a broad swathe of expertise and opinion.
Former generals and administrators have joined academics and professionals in calling for a radical overhaul of institutions and ideas to prepare Nepal for its real challenges and opportunities. The fact that this motley community includes many people who were at the forefront of the April 2006 Uprising perhaps enhances its general credibility. Largely shunned by mainstream news outlets, their declarations, entreaties and remedies dominate the new media in the full robustness, instantaneity and – yes insolence – that technology provides.
A popular assertion emerging from that quarter is that the existing system perforce lives on institutionalized corruption. Might a directly elected president or prime minister work better? With federalism having done little else beyond adding to the public tax burden, do we need tweaks or a complete reversal?
If republicanism has only raised political partisanship to the highest level of the state in addition to retaining the pomp and ostentation of the royalist past, shouldn’t we be rethinking things? Secularism having become so socio-culturally shattering, isn’t an honest reconsideration of the religious identity of the state be in order?
The state, in contrast, sees change in terms of amending the constitution to allow a politician defeated in elections to the lower house of parliament catapulted to the upper chamber and made eligible for the premiership just to maintain the balance of power in the ruling party. No wonder the incumbent premier, otherwise generous with patronage, can’t name a caretaker even while undergoing high-risk organ transplant.
Ordinarily, you would think our campaigners and activists shared enough commitment and purpose to unite under a broader alliance for change to gain credibility and effectiveness and eventually results. Instead, in recent months, many prominent ones have seen it fit to squander much time and energy undercutting one another’s motives and intentions.
Rather than weigh the feasibility and integrity of much-needed alternative solutions, the general public is left wondering whether and how much foreign money is at play here. Are ex-officials merely trying to cover up their own past complicity in our growing malady? Are ambitious individuals only to trying to circumvent the political process to gain power and privilege? Have people shunned by political parties found a platform to hit back at former allies?
Where discussions have tried to focus on substance, we have been sidetracked by doubts over whether the change being proposed is really forward looking or just an attempt to revive the past. Maybe that’s why the political establishment is stronger than it seems.