Labyrinth Of Ludicrous Lucre
Some may blame for the deficit in democratic practices to the dominance of communists in national politics including that of ultra-left Maoists, others may attribute it to the growing factionalism, squabbles and break-ups in major political forces.
Nepali politics has now completely lost its direction, and worse, it now faces acute dearth of leadership to guide the country out of protracted, unpredictable political transition that has put the country on a fix. There may be other hypotheses at work in explaining this precarious situation. Some may blame for the deficit in democratic practices to the dominance of communists in national politics including that of ultra-left Maoists, others may attribute it to the growing factionalism, squabbles and break-ups in major political forces. There are others who raise fingers on the so called foreign intervention, interest or intrusion. As heard very often, many would cite so called ideological or other differences that have impeded the path of a meaningful political resolve.
All these may be true, but partly. The whole truth is that the filthy money that has flown into Nepali politics – across all ideologies, organizations and leaders, with little or no variation – has undoubtedly been the main culprit in more than one way. Use of such lucre has not only criminalized the politics but also made all political activities analogous to that of businesses looking for disproportionate ‘benefit’ even from small ‘investment’. In the ‘extended meeting’ of the United CPN Maoist (UCPN-M) concluded in the third week of July, ‘money’ was the real issue of contention. The ex-combatants of the party alleged the party leadership that it rampantly defalcated the funds collected as cadres’ levy, allocated in the government budget under the combatants’ head or extorted by the party in various pretexts.
The reason behind the break-up of the party, creating a yet another CPN-Maoist, as confessed by the UCPN-M Chairman Puspa Kamal Dahal was nothing but his failure to allocate ‘lucrative’ ministries to the leaders of now broken away faction of the party while forming the present government under Dr Baburam Bhattarai’s premiership. What means lucrative here is the ministries with large allocations where the scope of misappropriation, corruption or commission of the funds is proportionately high. It was also a unique case on the part of UCPN-M to distribute money or career opportunities to its cadres who fought the ten-year-long ‘people’s war.’
There have been hundreds of ‘freedom struggles’ or ‘sacrifices to the country’ in the annals of the world history, but in no country in the world, the ‘sacrifices made to the nation’ by the fighters was paid from the state coffers as in the case of Nepal and the ex-Maoists combatants. The party is now reported to have been hostage to its trade union as these trade union leaders have raised themselves to irrational degree of influence, mainly due to financial resources they could mobilize from largely shady sources.
The new born CPN-M too has quickly chosen to resort to old tactics of ‘threat and extortion to create a fund for another armed struggle. Many believe that the over-hype of another guerrilla war was again meant to create a climate of fear to extract more money from the business people and corrupt bureaucrats. One of the major enigmas to the cadres of these both parties has been the ‘imperial’ life that its leaders are now living and, their obscure source of financing.
To allay this growing discontent, Dahal and Bhattarai had to once again pledge their ‘entire’ property to the party. It is interesting that these leaders had made similar declaration when they were very much in the ‘people’s war’. This had not stopped these ‘proletarians’ from neither amassing nor luxuriously spending the exorbitant sums of money. It is not clear how much asset these leaders actually have and what portion of it are they pledging to the party. And what material difference would it make for them to use them whether it is in party’s name or of their own? Such avarice at the first place and later, the accumulated money -- either in institutional fashion or at individual level -- are becoming the cause of frictions, fractions and factions in the political parties. It is not limited to the outfits with the ‘Maoist’ or ‘communist’ tags alone, to say the least.
The second largest party in the dissolved Constituent Assembly, the Nepali Congress, now faces serious leadership crisis despite the fact that the party has a former prime minister and several former deputy prime ministers among many other senior leaders plus ‘heirs apparent’ of some big leaders. Then, why is this paradox? Simply because of money!
The only surviving former Prime Minister from Nepali Congress party is Sher Bhahadur Deuba who hails from one of the remotest districts of Dadeldhura, He is now a newborn aristocrat who can buy all the luxuries of the world but has lost his moral to firmly place his claim as the putative ‘savior’ of the nation. He rather seems contended with whatever he has amassed during his three stints as prime minister. Apart from him, a large chunk of potential leaders got so badly tainted that their entire political career now hangs in limbo. Chirnajeevi Wagle, Khum Bhadur Khadka and Govind Raj Joshi are the most prominent figures among them. Daughter of late Girija Prasad Koirala, Sujata, apparently has dreams of becoming a new national leader. But her highly corrupt image coupled with her demonstrated naivety is detrimental to her wishful thinking.
Another very interesting feature of accumulated money has marred the Congress. As a matter of fact, this party has not been able to collect any substantial amount of money for last one decade or so, because it was all monopolized by the Maoists by using all means of terror tactics. And whatever favour they got was capitalized by the individuals, unlike institutional face presented by other parties while collecting such money. Thus both the prime ministerial hopeful Ramchadra Poudel and Party President Sushil Koirala do have resources at their disposal but both of them are able to pretend that they are relatively ‘clean’. The problem is: no one has trust on what these two whining fellows have to say.
The CPN-UML is also not much different in encountering the troubles borne out of money issue. Its many janajati leaders have recently been expelled from the party for their penchant of federalizing Nepal with ethnic identity-based provinces. But, the party alleges them working in the behest – read financial support – from mainly Christian missionaries and some foreign NGOs having vested interests in dividing Nepal along the ethnic lines.
It may be recalled that both Nepali Congress and CPN-UML were split years ago and mud-slinging between the splintered factions of each of them had brought the financial irregularities committed by leaders to the surface causing the party and leaders a disgusting face.
The so called fourth political force Madhesh-based parties can present the best example of how politics has become a pure money business in absolute terms. During last five years, the Madhesh-based parties have splintered into at least one-and-half dozen groups. The trend is that no sooner one leader becomes minister, the rest would protest against him under the guise of some political differences but actual cause remains the jealousy that the incumbent is making quick bucks.
There is no mechanism in place so far to make party accounts transparent. The anti-corruption bodies are as good as non-existent or puppet at the hands of the politicians themselves and money is flowing into Nepali political sphere from many unknown sources.
In such a situation, it is not really difficult guess that, if our new constitution were to be written, there are forces at work ready with hot purses in hand to include the provisions of their interest or agenda at any cost. For some, among such agenda could be secularism, for others it could be ethnic federalism and for yet another it may be an ensured freedom to proselytize. In view of all these scenarios, for Nepal, it looks impossible to come out of the political mess and complete writing the new constitution until this albatross embrace of this dirty money wanes out, however late it may be.