Thursday, 5 August, 2021

Five Former PMs’ Futile Fuss

Gopal Khanal

In a rarely demonstrated act in a parliamentary democracy, Nepal's five former Prime Ministers, irrespective of their ideological affinities, on June 12 issued a joint statement with a thrust that the incumbent government, led by KP Sharma Oli, should be isolated nationally. For this, they have sought the support of neighbouring countries and international community.
This is the first statement of its kind, which has appeared as the continuation of their alliance against PM Oli, not for the wellbeing of Nepali people, but just for usurping power. It is obvious that the current political rift has not even a modicum of association with principle, ideology and system.
Unfortunately, two of the former five belong to the same party the Prime Minister represents. Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal became prime minister as the leaders of the CPN-UML. Violating party norms and statute, they have now stood against PM Oli. They have tried to mislead the people and international community by depicting the gloomy picture of Nepal resulted from the rule of the Prime Minister Oli, which is in fact not the case.

Objectionable statement
Let’s analyse the major points of their statement. First, they appealed to the country's bureaucracy and security apparatus not be involved in any activities that have a long-term effect on the country. They said: “We warn the caretaker government not to do anything or direct others to do anything that would have a long-term impact on the country and people, and appeal to the administration and security agencies not to be involved in such wrong activities.” This is highly objectionable. They have no authority to incite the people involved in administration and security agencies. They are working hard in this time of global pandemic.
Second, the former five PMs have claimed that there have been the foreign interferences in Nepal. They claim: “Nepal and Nepali should solely decide on the country's internal affairs. We urge everyone to remain alert against any sort of direct or indirect foreign influences and interference in the country's politics and internal affairs.” This is totally baseless logic that displays their narrow mindset.
Third, they have also called on all to express solidarity against what they call an autocratic attack on the principles and values of Nepal's constitutional system, rule of law, and democracy. “He has displayed the ugly form of lust for power that has never existed in Nepal's political history. We condemn such undemocratic acts by Oli,” reads the joint statement.
Leaving other issues aside, this scribe here focuses on their ambiguous claim of foreign interferences.
First, there are no any interference in the internal affairs of Nepal from neighbours and external forces, as argued by the former five PMs. Can they prove their statement with evidences? No. Because, their intention here is not to raise the issue of foreign intervention, rather to concentrate their eroding strength against PM Oli, who has been performing better than them by all terms. Nepal has been maintaining warm and friendly relations with both neighbours -India and China with a newly introduced approach of 'sovereign equality'. This principle of sovereign equality was propounded by Prime Minister Oli. It is not necessary to enter the discourse whether or not Oli is a nationalist for there are evidences galore justifying his nationalist stature.
Look at the other side. New Delhi and Beijing have not even indirectly conveyed their objections to the policy Nepal has taken towards them. Instead, they have been applauding Nepal’s policy of equally respecting the rising powers, including both the neighbours and helping Nepal in fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Therefore, the claim of the former five PMs should be rejected in the first place. How can they issue such hollow statement on the serious issue of foreign relations and interferences? It's their intellectual poverty and we can just pity them.
Now, let's recollect what these former five have done during their premierships.
Nepali Congress (NC) president Sher Bahadur Deuba had never uttered serious words on foreign policy and interferences before this. In fact, he doesn't like to speak in such serious matter. It is ridiculous to see Deuba pointing the finger at PM Oli alleging that the latter placed democracy in danger. It should not remind that Deuba was the Prime Minister, who had handed over ‘democracy’ to monarchy. Can Deuba show a single example of what he has done to Nepal and Nepali people so that history will remember in the days to come? No.

Prachanda-India connection
CPN-Maoist Centre chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda lived underground in India for almost eight years. During that period, he launched armed movement against Nepali democracy. He was not out of the ambit of Delhi's power corridors at that time. In June 2002, Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai had written letter to the then Indian Prime Minister, which was handed over to him through India's external intelligence agency - RAW.
When Prachanda became Prime Minister, he sacked the then Nepal Army chief but later he clarified that he would like to ask the Indian government about the move, but could not contact the right authority. It was published in The Hindu dated May 1, 2009. Prachanda was the very leader, who had proposed a referendum to finalise Nepal's border with India.
When Madhav Nepal was PM, Prachanda staged a weeklong mass strike saying the former was the 'puppet' of India. He declared he would talk with Prabhu (master) implying India, not the servant indicating PM Nepal. Indian media at that time projected Nepal as India's loyal Prime Minister.
The most inconsistent leader of Nepal is Baburam Bhattarai, who could not have removed the image of being close to India and their agencies. It should be noted that Bhattarai was not invited by China for the official visit, which conveyed a clear message in diplomacy. Among the five, Jhalanath Khanal has comparatively avoided foreign meddling though he was not invited by India for the visit.
Except Oli, all other former PMs are considered either close to New Delhi or Beijing. No one will believe that the former five PMs are worried about Nepal and Nepali people, everyone knows that they are straining every nerve to unseat Oli from the premiership post.

(Khanal is consulting editor at Gorkhapatra Corporation.