Krishna Bahadur Mahara’s resignation as Speaker of the House of Representatives days before Nepal’s biggest festival Dashain early this fortnight, in the wake of an allegation of misconduct with a lady staff, has had a shocking jolt for the political class as well as the voting mass already faced with a variety of problems. The ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has an opportunity for redeeming some of its lost ground while governing the nation with two-thirds majority the like of which was previously recorded 60 years ago in 1959.
Prompt and swift action has checked the damage it otherwise would have caused for Prime Minister KP Oli’s party. Truth, sometimes, can be strange and painful. Mahara’s fall from the high pedestal came amid an a quick succession of events within 48 hours of the news break, with the woman his three-decade acquaintance charged him of assault, only to retract from it after the target of her wrath paid a visit at the height of demands for his resignation.
Left with hardly any choice when NCP leadership asked him to step down—apparently with stern warning—he tendered his conditional resignation addressed to the Deputy Speaker of the House. Strong advice from his party top-notch leaders made him submit an unconditional resignation letter, which was approved without much ado.
Baggage of misconduct
The manner in which things moved fast for ensuring the resignation from the high office came as new and refreshing approach to the situation pertaining to the conduct of someone whose supporters had since long created hollow hallow around him. But, as Communication and Information Technology Minister Gokul Baskota clarified, the party would not carry the baggage of any individual’s misconduct. In short, party image could not be compromised by any individual member’s questionable act.
Eyebrows were raised when silence maintained by civil society leaders and gender activists created a conspicuous exposition. The normally quick to react quarters of the civil society seemed at a loss as how to vent their views to the public they had been addressing whenever given a forum. Had it been the slightest of suspicion of recalcitrance on other occasions, they would have aired their views with the full force of their long practised approach. Was it some kind of fear that stilled their voice at the initial stage of the latest scandal? Better strength next time for strength of consistency and quality credibility. In any case, Mahara’s own party came forward to demonstrate speedy decisions.
As for the prime minister’s party in particular and other political organisations in general, Mahara is now a has-been, fallen steeply from the height of grace to rock bottom. Only a high degree of principle put to practice not in fits and starts but with religious commitment can enhance an organisation’s integrity and public trust. This requires regular critical self-assessment of party’s performance, guided by due desire to steer the ship accordingly. Whenever a difficult situation confronts any organisation, expediency might pacify and delay the inevitable but its long-term consequences for both a party and the public could be a high price.
The key to maintaining the high character of the rank and file is vigilance against losing sight of publicly pledged goals and policies. When discrepancies seep in, action should step in to check and correct the course without hesitation. This offers the public an assurance that the party accords utmost seriousness to pursuing its policies with inspiring and intelligent integrity. If and when, somewhere something goes wrong on account of misjudgement or because of some individual black sheep straying from party pledge, the leadership should into action for credible amends without any prolonged exercise hemming and hawing.
No one guarantees the good conduct of anyone, whosoever might hold whatsoever a position, and hence the need for the rule of law that is seen to deliver justice—and without delay. Misdemeanour by those holding responsible public positions public in high office sends severe shivers down the spine of the public. High hopes pinned on public institutions should not be allowed to go asunder, lest popular faith in them erodes.
The Mahara case should be allowed to take the full course of the law, as would have been in the case of an average citizen without any powerful force for dubious backing. Such a move by all law enforcement agencies would give the message that the days of impunity are over, and no fish—big or small—would be spared. It would streamline governance for the better, and create greater faith in various agencies.
In order to synchronise the message of rule of law, due focus on corruption should be relentless order of the day. In fact, it would be the single-most important factor in boosting a government’s reputation. Corruption combat is a sure shot in generating immense fund of goodwill from the voting community that elected the present government with such enthusiasm last year. It would enable the government to earn considerable public support in its other pledges and undertakings.
The cancer of corruption eats into the very vitals of good governance. Pledge alone is inadequate, as past experiences so tellingly emphasise. In this regard, the Commission for Investigating Abuse of Authority (CIAA) and other related state agencies can step up necessary probe for netting the big fish in the deep waters of corruption. Mahara might just not be an exception, and hence the call for the administration to be on constant alert for appropriate action wherever wrong doing occurs. This is good for concerned organisations, welcome for the nation and, above all, for boosting public confidence in the functioning of parties, thus paving way for producing win-win outcomes for all stakeholders.
Oli’s party represents the unique case of a communist party winning multiparty elections conducted by Nepali Congress, which today is the largest opposition grouping in parliament. The outcome was an overwhelming verdict in favour of the communist combination, with Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal at the forefront to the finishing line. Parties, particularly those officially declared as national parties represented in parliament, should join hands in setting major development priorities that inspire hope and deliver benefits to the extent of upgrading the basic quality of life of an average Nepali.
The issue of the right person in the right place has intensified over the years. Were this to be addressed with meticulous care, the outcome would bear rich dividends for all concerned. In case the government is convinced that things are on their track and criticisms of its performance only echo prejudiced comments by die-hard opponents bent on dreaming of its fall, the ruling side has nothing to worry about but only to pursue its course.
(Former chief editor of The Rising Nepal, P. Kharel has been writing for this daily since 1973)
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