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Indian State Assembly Elections Warning Shots To Oli

Issue December 2018

Indian State Assembly Elections Warning Shots To Oli

Siddhi B Ranjitkar


The defeat of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the recent State assembly elections held in five States must be the warning shots to Nepalese Prime Minister KP Oli. When Modi became the prime minister he must have thought that he was the modern emperor of Delhi. His opponents and supporters definitely publicly declared that Modi was invincible. Modi got lost while sitting in the throne of the Delhi emperor. He flip-flopped on the foreign policy, domestic policy and economic policy. He could not keep the commitments to creating millions of jobs, and providing assistance to the farmers, and to making the fast economic growth rather he demonetized the high denomination Indian banknotes causing loss of millions of jobs in the small industries, and then introduced the general service tax (GST). He unleash the hardliner Hindus to protect the holy animal cow, and destroyed the beef industry again causing millions of job lost in the industry, and went after anybody keeping beef, and even lynched some of them.


Prime Minister Oli had almost the same feeling that of Modi when he took office, and he wanted to fire all the high political appointees his predecessor Sher Bahadur Deuba made but his decision backfired on it. He could not keep the highly hyped election promises of increasing the allowance to the senior citizens to NPR 5,000 per month, and income per capita to US$ 5,000. He appointed the most inept man to the finance minister. As a result, the finance minister immediately after taking office sent the stock market down to the bottom, and he did not probably know what was productive and unproductive sector. It has been almost 10 months since Oli took office he could not even manage to delegate the authority to the provincial and local governments the Constitution has granted them. He could keep the provincial chief ministers mute because they were his cadres except for one of the province number two.


For the information of Modi, to be the prime minister of India is quite different from being a chief minister of Rajasthan. As a chief minister of Rajasthan, Modi could devote his time to the economic development even though it was superficial one means at the surface only. Many farmers in Rajasthan have been deadly poor, and they are still so.


Modi had been a good salesman. He could sell whatever the meager economic development in Rajasthan he had made to the entire populace of India during the general elections held in 2014. Voters trusted him and voted him to power believing he would create millions of jobs for the jobless Indians, give a huge boost to the economic growth, increase the prestige of India in the international arena in other words he would have an effective foreign policy, and save millions of farmers from starvation, and relieve millions of dalits from the sufferings.


What Modi did was he unleashed the Hindu fundamentalists to stop the cow slaughter and ban the sale of beef causing the loss of millions of jobs in the meat and livestock industry, and stopped the dalits from eating beef. Many beefeaters were deprived of the nutritional food. Millions of cows were wasted causing the economic loss to the livestock farmers, and surely to the nation but nobody could make a voice against Modi. His Hindu fanatics have been ready to punish anybody on any pretext, and tell him or her to go to Pakistan or label him or her as an anti-national if anybody were to oppose them. Modi ruled the country with the iron hand of Hindus muzzling the press as much as possible. He built one of the tallest statues of Balavbhai Patel in Rajasthan whereas the farmers living next door wanted irrigation systems instead of the statue so that they could increase their farmer productivity.


India remained a secular country in name only after Modi took office. Folks believing in other faiths had to be careful and watch the Hindu vigilantes. Many Christians and Muslims were ransacked in the suspicion of keeping beef. The Hindu mob even lynched some folks in suspicion of keeping beef and eating it. Dalits have been forced to accept the low status in the Hindu social order. Non-Hindus have to live in terror even at their homes. Thus, the Modi administration with the Hindu zealots tried to put the society in the reverse gear.


Hindu advocates have been demanding to build a temple on the spot where once Babri Masjid stood in Ayodhaya. They believed that one of the Muslim emperors had built the Masjid demolishing a temple. In 1990, the Hindu fundamentalists knocked down the Babri Masjid within an hour before the police could reach there. The then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao probably knew it but he failed to protect the Masjid; however, he promised to rebuild it but he never kept his promise. This might have been one of the reasons for the downfall of the Congress Party from power.


After the rise of Narendra Modi to the prime minister of India, Hindu fanatics were encouraged to do whatever they thought was good for them. The Hindu vigilantes increased their activities to keep the vigilance on the movement of cows, and beefeaters, and beef sellers. In the name of protecting cow, they caused tremendous loss to the economy, and even irritated the liberal Hindus. This message did not reach the ears of Modi, who had simply watched the massacre of Muslims in the Hindu-Muslim conflict causing the death of many Muslims in Rajasthan when he was the chief minister there.


Probably, one of the reasons why Modi needed to face the loss of his party in the State assembly elections held recently in the northern India might be Modi had been a good salesman but any salesman could not sale the same false promises to the voters more than once.


The next most touching issue has been the creation of millions of jobs; however, what Modi did was demonetize the high value banknotes and did not supply sufficient new banknotes required for the small business people to run their businesses smoothly. Millions of small business owners had to close their businesses because of the short supply of cash, which had been the lifeline of their businesses.  In addition, millions of Indians suffered from the lack of high value banknotes in other words cash. Some patients had to die because of it, the Indian media reported at that time. However, the Modi’s manipulated date showed the good result of the demonetization.


Voters had not forgotten the misdeeds or miscalculations of Modi and his Hindu zealots, and punish his party and him when time came to vote not voting for the candidates of his party. So, Modi lost in all five State assembly elections. The Congress won the elections in the three major States such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chattisgarh. Mizo National Front won the elections in Mizoram, and TRS in Telengana. Bharatiya Janata Party was ousted in all those five States.


Modi flip-flopped on the foreign policy. He wanted to have better relations with South Asian countries. So, he invited the head of governments of the SAARC (South Asian Association For Regional Cooperation) countries to his sworn-in ceremony in New Delhi in May 2014 after his political party won the decisive victory in the general elections. He visited Nepal twice only to impose the sanctions on Nepal later on. On his way back home from the foreign trip, again he dropped in Pakistan to meet with the then Prime Minister Nawaz Shariff. Then, what Modi did was to scuttle SAARC, and promote another organization BIMSTEC for isolating Pakistan.


Modi leaned on America, and propped up the Indo-pacific Axis America sponsored. The Indo-pacific axis is the axis of America, India, Vietnam, and Japan to counter the growing influence of China in the pacific region. However, what Modi got from the flamboyant President of America Donald Trump was the mockery of how Modi spoke with an Indian accent.


Modi visited Nepal several times to enhance the brotherly relations with Nepal. He praised Nepal for its ancient Hindu religion and culture, and even said that Nepal: the holy land. In the name of brotherly and sisterly relations, Modi wanted to interfere in the business of Nepalis. He sent his emissary to Nepal to stop the promulgation of the new constitution on the last few days. Modi did not succeeded in this mission. Then what Modi did was impose sanctions on Nepal.


In a fury, Modi imposed sanctions on Nepal, which had been just slowly recovering from the devastating earthquakes in 2015. The short supply of fossil fuels brought the business of Nepalis to a grinding halt. Modi just looked on when the Nepalese administration would bow down to his ego. For a shame to Modi, the Nepalese administration stood up against the Indian sanctions, as the entire population of Nepal rose up against the Indian blockade. Nepalis suffered from every sorts of loss but they bent Modi, who had anticipated bending the Nepalese administration.


Modi wanted to improve the diplomatic relations with China. However, he faced off the Chinese road builders at Doklam: the border area between Bhutan and China without giving any notice to the sovereign country: Bhutan to enter its territory. India and Bhutan have an agreement on India taking up the foreign and defense issues of Bhutan. To the utmost national humiliation of Bhutan, India took on China for stopping the road widening on the border area between Bhutan and China. India withdrew its forces from Doklam only when Modi needed to visit China.


Tension between India and Pakistan has been increasing. Skirmishes at the border areas between India and Pakistan particularly on the line of control areas in Kashmir have been taking place. Newly elected Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan proposed to meet his foreign minister with the Indian counterpart in New York on the sideline of the UN General Assembly meeting in September 2018 but India called it off at the last minute.


Modi has been increasingly interfering in the businesses of Sri Lanka. He has been nervous about Sri Lanka contracting out the running of one of the largest seaports in Sri Lanka to China. About 70 percent of the global business passes through the channel between India and Sri Lanka, the US official stated while she was in Nepal in 2018. Naturally, Modi must be very concerned with the Chinese running the seaport in Sri Lanka.


Similarly, Modi has been concerned with the highway built in Pakistan from the Chinese border passing through the disputed Jammu and Kashmir to the Arabian Sea. The highway has been the means of an easy access of Southern China to the Arabian Sea through the Pakistani territory. Surely, the highway would help China to provide the South Asian countries with its goods and services. Probably, India could take the benefit of it to improve trade with China using this highway if Modi were to be very smart.


Now, let us talk about Nepalese Prime Minister Oli that has been stepping on the footprints Modi has left.


As Modi did, Oli also promised the fast economic growth and improve the lives of millions of common folks. His party’s election manifesto stated that the income per capita of the Nepalis would be increased to US$ 5,000 within five years probably without consulting the real economists because it was next to impossible.


After the victory in the general elections, provincial and the local elections, Oli stopped talking about the target of the income per capita rather he appointed the so-called economist to the finance minister, who immediately after taking office sent the stock market into a tailspin stating the investments in the stock were unproductive. The finance minister in his budget speech set the target of the economic growth at around eight percent but the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank: the two international banks that have been assisting Nepal in every sector of the economy predicted the economic growth only at around six percent.


Oli did not bother to talk about increasing the allowance to the senior citizens after extracting their massive votes promising the allowance to top out at NPR 5,000 per month during the election campaign. Probably, his finance minister did not agree on spending the State money on the unproductive sector such as the allowance to the senior citizens. At the superficial glance, the allowance might look like the unproductive one but if the finance minister were the really deep thinking economist he would find it the most productive than spending on the State projects that never completed and became the centers of the corruption for making money for the unscrupulous politicians and bureaucrats because the allowance reaches the grassroots level and would be used for spending on various items that would fuel the economy.


The Oli’s finance minister did not try to wean off the foreign assistance not graduating the country to the developing country in the hope of getting some grants and loans at the discounted interest rate. The finance minister had been definitely ignorant of the addiction to the foreign assistance that had slowed the economic growth and increased the dependency, and often put the country in the humiliating state. Even some announcements made in the Radio Nepal have the label of the foreign donor agencies that has sponsored.


The news in “gorkhapatra” on December 14, 2018 stated that the Asian Development Bank did the feasibility study on the Kathmandu-Terai fast track highway. If the national company had done this feasibility study then the problem of saving the ancient cultural heritage of Kokhana would not have arisen because the national folks knew the importance of the national cultural heritage but the foreigners did not care about it thus making the problem of saving the cultural heritage when the construction of the fast track highway was to start.


The same bank has suggested denying the national contractors to participate in the bidding for construction of this fast track highway, the private media recently reported. This is the clear example of how the foreign agency works against the interest of the country, and how the foreign assistance has been poisoning the economic growth of the country.


Former King Mahendra also removed the ancient chaitya from the area next to the Bir hospital for widening the road in the core area of Kathmandu. He expropriated the land belonging to the different trusts that were set up for running the religious and social activities denying the revenue the temples and the trusts that later on failed to function. Most of the ancient religious and cultural heritages have been in the verge of extinction because of the drying of the revenue and of the external assaults on our culture and religion.


The minister for industry could have revived several State-owned factories and industries to boost the economy. Hundreds of billions of NPR worth of factories have been dormant for the last two decades fueling the import of those items that could have been substituted from the production of those factories such as Gorkhali Rubber Udyog Factory in Gorkha that had been producing tires and tubes for motor vehicles but has been closed for some years, another factory is the paper factory called Bhrikuti Paper factory that could again produce the paper required for the Nepalese newspapers, and for the educational purposes, then the Hetauda Textile Mill that could produce linen for the consumption of Nepalis. What stopped the industry minister from rerunning those factories Prime Minister Oli needed to take a look at it without delay? The products of these factories would certainly reduce the huge trade deficit currently Nepal had with the neighbors.


The then Finance Minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat took pride in selling and closing the State-owned factories, and told the public that he had saved the State from the financial burden. However, he had been totally blind to how much suffering the selling of factories had brought to the thousands of workers that lost the jobs, and their families that needed to go to bed with empty stomachs, and the revenue loss to the country, and also the loss of the fast economic growth.


The selling of the State-owned factories had been at the behest of the foreign donors particularly the Americans. The selling of the State-owned factories would be justified if the buyers ran them with efficiency, without job or revenue loss, and with the contribution to the fast economic development of the country. However, the buyers closed the factory or liquidated the factory and tried to take the benefit of the land that had been of high prices. The then government had expropriated the land of the common folks even without paying compensation because most of the factories were built during the Panchayat regime: the autocratic rule of the then king. The foreigners did not give a fig to all those negative consequences of the selling of the State-owned factories.


It was interesting to note why Prime Minister Oli did not fire the minister for physical infrastructure and transport for not filing up the deadly potholes on the Kathmandu city roads even after he had publicly told him to do so for three times. How could Nepalis trust in the things he said to increase the economic status of the people when he could not force his minister obviously the very simple thing to do to fill up the potholes at certain cost immediately not to mention the construction of the Kathmandu-Hetauda fast track highway and the completion of the Melamchi Drinking Water Project? Probably, delaying the high-budget infrastructures brings the maximum premium to the ministers including the prime minister. Then, why they needed to expedite the completion of those projects, rather kept them delaying and let the public suffer from the delay in the service delivery from those projects.


Prime Minister Oli has not been tired of talking about the north-south and east-west railroads, and of course about the boats sailing to Nepal from the Bay of Bengal when he could not do even the simplest thing to fill up the potholes on the Kathmandu city roads. Is it not a shame on the prime minister that secured the US$ 100,000 for the good governance from the South Korean INGO that has a strong religious background? Oli needed to receive awards from the voters not from the foreigners that could give the prime minister anything he wanted provided it suited their interest.


Probably, only the energy minister has done something concrete to enhance the investments in the hydropower. Billions of the private money has been pouring in the building hydropower plants as reported in the media. Nepal might be soon producing adequate power to export to Bangladesh. Certainly, India has not been interested in buying the Nepalese power for the obvious reasons of blocking the hydropower development in Nepal without the Indian investments in them.


Any prime minister accountable to the public interest cases would have been concerned with the police covering up the evidences of the death after rape of Nirmala Panta in Kanchanpur. Prime Minister Oli thought that the case was over politicized, and the opposition had been inciting it. His foreign minister had said publicly that the evidences of the rape had been erased but he had no answer to the question why the police did not bring the person or persons involved in such crimes to justice. Probably, some big shot must have been involved in this crime. It might be the tip of iceberg of the cover-up of such crimes.


Prime Minister Oli in his speech said that the folks heavily involved in corruption shout at it loudly forgetting that he himself had been doing so. In an interview given to a radio anchor, spokesman for Nepal Communist Party (Oli’s party) said that the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats and construction contractors must have been scared to death after the majority and stable government had been in place but it had not happened so far.


Corruption has been in its place if not increased because it benefited the politicians. Corruption has been in the alarming scale because the public figures including the prime minister have not been held accountable for their actions. Politicians holding public offices elected or appointed were not held accountable for their actions, too. Project in-charge had not been held accountable for not completing the project on time. Contractors escaped from doing the proper construction work because politicians had been protecting them ultimately the contractors themselves becoming the politicians, and lawmakers.


In conclusion, the election results in India might be the clear signals to the Nepalese prime minister and the politicians that had been indulging in politicizing the religion, as Modi had given free hands to the Hindu zealots and hoped to win the hearts and minds of the Indians but it certainly backfired on it because most of the Indians did not want politicizing the religion. However, Oli has four years to correct his actions to save him and his party from the defeat similar to the election defeat his party and Modi have suffered.


Modi managed to lose the assembly elections in all five states thanks to Yogi Aditayanath that had campaigned either in the name change or in strictly imposing one religion or asking the people opposing his policy to go to Pakistan. One of the leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party had gone so far that he labeled the victory of the Congress in the recent State assembly elections as the victory of Pakistan.


Prime Minister Oli had received the medal with the inscription of the good governance and US$ 100,000 cash award from the South Korean INGO head Ms Moon. Is Oli deserved this medal? What Oli has done for the good governance? If the good governance is the rule of law then the Oli government has been far from the rule of law. For example, the Oli administration has not been able to bring the criminals involved in the rape and death of Nirmala Panta to justice even after almost four months rather the foreign minister said that evidences had been erased. Corrupt bureaucrats and construction contractors and politicians have been in high mood rather than to be scared to death after the Oli government had been in place, as the spokesman for the Oli’s party had said.


Under the Modi administration, the dalits, farmers and small business folks suffered very much. However, his administration manipulated the data to show that everything even the demonetization had the positive result, the farmers’ income doubled, and so on. Modi rather Yogi Aditayanath could not sell his politics of religion, and the hate on Pakistan to the voters this time. So, BJP lost in all five State assembly elections held in December 2018.


Oli wanted to talk about the boat sailing to Nepal, then the railroads whereas the people’s immediate need is to repair the roads so that the folks would not need to breathe dust even at their homes. In fact, Oil as the prime minister issued orders to repair the roads three times but his orders went unheeded. Similarly, the mayors of Kathmandu and Lalitpur talked about the monorails whereas they had not been able to post the street names and distribute the house numbers despite the fact that they had been collecting huge house tax.


Oli has the time to divert his path from the footprints Modi has left, and his actions in the coming four years unlike Modi that has been facing the general elections in 2019. Modi’s prime ministerial seat in Delhi might be in threat. Modi could sell promises but could not keep them. So, voters might replace Modi with someone more efficient than Modi. Oli has still time to meet the promises his party and he have made to the people during the election campaign.


Oli needed to be careful not to repeat the most unwise mistake of Modi that had paved the way for the exclusive rule of Hindus that also only of the upper class Hindus; the poor dalits have no voice even though they are Hindus; farmers are neglected; small business folks are ignored in other words every body except for the few yogis and the so-called high class Hindus.


So, Oli needed to run an inclusive administration if he were to stay on in power after the next general elections; so, grant the holidays to the folks celebrating Losar, and to the folks marking other ethnic or regional cultural and religious events, and amend the Constitution rationally so that the Madhesi Nepalis would be proud of the Constitution and of being Nepalis.


An exclusive rule of any group or class of people would not be a long lasting one. Imposing one religion on all the folks of different religious background would provoke the folks to rise up. So, Oli needed to be very watchful that such things would not be happening at any rate. An inclusive administration is the only alternative, as the folks are of the 21st century, none of them is for tolerating repression or suppression of anybody no matter how powerful s/he would be.


December 14, 2018

Updated on December 15, 2018

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