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Oli-led Government-14

Issue January 2016

Irrational Rulers Of Nepal

Siddhi B Ranjitkar


Speaking at one of the functions in Kathmandu on January 9, 2016, Prime Minister Oli said that he would connect every household with the cooking gas. He was not the first prime minister to say such things; former Interim Prime Minister Krishna Prasad Bhattarai said that he would wash the streets of Kathmandu with the water from the Melamchi River. These things were not impossible had those prime ministers were serious and worked accordingly. Bhattarai was as much a comedian as Oli had been. Nothing was wrong the head of the government being a comedian. For example, I rated the US President Barack Obama as one of the best contemporary comedians of America but he was dedicated to his people and he worked hard to do what he said he would do during his election campaign.


When Prime Minister Oli told the audience that Nepalese would not need to worry about cooking gas, as they would have the home-connected gas they simply had to switch on the gas at home to cook foods. Probably, nobody in the audience did believe him. Sarcastically, some applauded him. Oli was certainly joking. He would smoothly supply gas in cylinders if he were serious about it rather than telling something that was not possible in the immediate future.


True, Nepalese had hard time to believe in what the politicians said and what they would do. Since 1990 the elected prime ministers had made many promises to Nepalese and Nepalese had trusted them initially but during the last 25 years Nepalese prime ministers had done almost nothing for the people but they did everything for a cadre of their political parties.


It was not impossible to wash the Kathmandu streets with the Melamchi water and it was also not impossible to have gas connected to every house. It would happen one day no doubt about that. However, for now, Nepalese would believe Mr. Oli, as what he said was a joke rather than a serious promise. It had been 25 years since Bhattarai said that he would clean up the Kathmandu streets with the Melamchi water but the Melamchi project had not been completed, yet. Every new prime minister comes and goes but the project goes on lingering.


Nepalese prime ministers had been smart; surely they would not have been the prime ministers otherwise but their smartness had been for wrongdoing.


For example, Prime Minister Oli must know that the constitution had the provision for the 25-member cabinet but his cabinet had already 40 members, nobody knew when he would add another ministers. Oli had been so smart he could even set aside the constitution and worked as Jung Bahadur: the notorious Rana prime minister that had crafted a civil code but not only he but also his successors never bothered to follow the civil code. The head of state: President Vidhya Bhandari had been impotent, as she could not safeguard the constitution. If she had any shame she would have quit the office immediately.


Oli was the comedian, and he could keep his audience amused. Sushil Koirala was not a comedian but he kept his colleagues and a cadre of his party very happy. Before quitting the office of the Prime Minister, Koirala distributed billions of rupees to his colleagues but he missed to give even a few thousands rupees from even the billions of dollars his finance minister begged and received from the donor agencies for reconstruction. The Koirala administration was supposed to follow the central bank’s plan on providing Rs 2.5 million in loans to build the urban houses and Rs 1.5 million in loans to the village houses also damaged by the quakes. Currently, millions of quake victims had been living in extreme cold, some even in the tents covered with snow. Koirala’s ministers and he had been so openly corrupting the administration that the international donor community shied away from passing any donation to the quake victims through his administration.


Not all prime ministers had been so bad. Former Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai had done a wonderful job of widening the streets in Kathmandu and in other major towns elsewhere in Nepal. He sent the bulldozers escorted by the police to tear down the illegally built compound walls starting from the Everest Hotel at Nayabaneswore in Kathmandu. His political opponents laughed at him for riding the Nepal-assembled Mustang Jeep. Nepal would have been a star nation in the developed world had Nepal a few Baburams like prime ministers during the last 250 years.


Before Baburam, Madhav Kumar Nepal had been the prime minister skipping Jahlanath Khanal for being the prime minister in the name only for six months. Madhav Nepal became the shrewdest prime minister for putting back everything corrupts into the administration. He even surpassed the panchayat prime ministers and the father of the panchyat Mahendra in corrupt practices. One of the glaring corrupt practices of Madhav Nepal had been the reinstatement of fertilizer subsidy. It cost the nation billions of rupees. The international community had with great efforts stopped it in the past.


Then, Chairman of UCPN-Maoist Prachanda became the first elected prime minister of Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal in 2008. He behaved as if he had won the people’s war, and he could do everything. He visited China and then India and became the hero of the time. He wanted to fire the then CoAS Rukmangud Katuwal because he had been against integrating the People’s Liberation Army with the regular Nepal Army. Unfortunately, Prachanda himself got finished off within nine months of his reign. So, he did not have much time to do good or bad things.


Girija Prasad Koirala had been the prime minister several times since 1990 when Nepalese reinstated the democracy killed by Mahendra in 1960. He made the short supply of petroleum products to flourish the parallel market for making money from 2006 to 2008. He sold out all the China-made factories through his finance minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat at dirt prices in 1990s and destroyed the trolley bus running between Kathmandu and Bhaktapur. He fired all the experienced civil servants and hired a cadre of his party holding bogus credentials in 1990s. Girija became the synonymous with corruption.


Yeah, Sher Bahadur Deuba became the prime minister thrice. Twice he became the prime minister because of Girija’s failure in winning the general elections in 1994 and failure in saving the lives of the palace people in 2001 when the then crown prince Dipendra reportedly killed all his parents, siblings and relatives. Dipendra must be the victim of the palace conspiracy judging from the circumstantial evidences. Then, Deuba got the direct appointment to the prime minister from Gyanendra in 2004. What Deuba did in his tenure as the prime minister was just to keep the corruption level on a par with that of Girija.


Prime Minister Manmohan Adhikari and his Deputy Madhav Nepal had run the administration for nine months after the general elections held in 1994 in which neither CPN-UML nor NC managed to garner required majority in the parliament for claiming the power. These communist guys thought that they could install the communist regime despite the fact they had no majority in the parliament. They had the highest number of lawmakers in the parliament; that is all. They came down crashing after Manmohan dissolved the parliament and announced the fresh polls through Birendra: the then head of state. The Supreme Court reinstated the parliament, and Deuba formed a new government with the lawmakers belonging to Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) that had managed to win 20 slots in the parliament.


Then the former corrupt panchayat prime ministers such as Lokendra Bahadur Chand and Surya Bahadur Thapa one after another became prime minister. The corruption had been in their blood since the panchayat rule in Nepal. What they could do had been nothing but reintroduced all the corrupt practices back into the administration.


Poor and sincere Krishna Prasad Bhattarai was the interim prime minister after the democracy was put back in Nepal in 1990. He had the mandate to craft a new constitution and then hold general elections for a new legislature and a government. A group of constitutional experts prepared a new constitution. He submitted it to the then head of state Birendra for approval and for the public announcement. Birendra set aside the newly crafted constitution and put forward another one more favorable to him and his sycophants than to the common folks. That had been a regular corruption the head of state had practiced. This time, Supreme Leader Ganeshman Singh did not permit even the head of state to indulge in corruption again.


Then, interim Prime Minister Bhattarai had more time to make jokes and gossip with the sycophants. At that time, Bhattarai told the people that he would bring water from the Melamchi River and washed off the dirt from the Kathmandu streets. He might be joking but people took it seriously. They thought that the water-starved Kathmanduites would have some sorts of relief if Bhattarai were to continue as the prime minister after the general elections he held in 1990. Poor Bhattarai caught into the snare set by his political opponent Girija Koirala, and failed to win the elections. The second time Bhattarai became the prime minister as a tool for Girija to stage a comeback. Bhattarai soon became politically redundant, and he spent the rest of his life making jokes to his political followers that had followed him even after he became powerless.


Prime ministers of the panchayat era from 1962 to 1990 had been in name only. The then head of state Mahendra and later Birendra did everything. They visited foreign countries. Birendra presided over the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation). So, the prime ministers had nothing to do except for following the orders from the palace.  Birendra and his spouse enjoyed the winter months setting up a royal camp in Surkhet and flying on an army helicopter from there to the beautiful mountains and Himalayan areas on the pretext of inaugurating taps or school buildings or foot tracks and so on. Birendra enjoyed his life as a king in the real sense of the world whereas millions of Nepalese lived in poverty and destitute. He also amassed incredible assets: hundreds of thousands of acres of land, hundreds of thousands of bank shares and so on.


Mahendra was Birenda’s father that had killed the democracy in 1960 and then he sowed the seeds of the demise of the monarchy in Nepal. Mahendra was the son of poor father Tribhuvan. Mahendra had to make money for himself and for his descendants. He deposited the checks came for the welfare of the British Gurkha soldiers in his spouse’s name in the foreign bank. He had brilliantly devised a constitution that allowed him to set up a panchayat system that gave him the absolute power. He ran the administration keeping the Nepalese in the utter poverty. He renovated the so-called palace that had been not better than the cowshed of the Rana prime ministers. One of the foreign reporters compared the palace with the then East German railway station.


Tribhuvan became the head of state when he was only five years old. His father Surendra Shah lost the power to the most daring soldier Jung Bahadur in 1847. The Shahs used to live in the old palace at the core of the Kathmandu city. The then Rana prime minister thought that the courtiers might influence Tribhuvan. So, the Ranas built a palace but not better than the cowshed of the then Ranas that had built lavish western-styled palaces for themselves. They shifted Tribhuvan to this cowshed called Narayanhity palace, and posted a man with the title of general to keep watch on Tribhuvan.


Tribhuvan became utterly poor and living not better than anyone of a few well-to-do merchants in Kathmandu. He received honorarium from the Rana prime minister. He needed permission from the prime minister to move out of the palace. One thing Tribhuvan had the freedom was to drink alcohol as much as he liked and enjoy life with the beautiful ladies. His life revolved within the four walls of the so-called palace during the Rana regime.


In 1951 Nepalese turned over the power to Tribhuvan his father Surendra had lost to Jung Bahadur in 1847 believing he would work for the people. What he did was first he did not keep the promise he had made, and then he manipulated the then politicians gradually using the mandate the people gave him. He had the phobia of losing the power to any politician, as did his father to Jung Bahadur. He was so poor he needed to sell the crown the last Rana Prime Minister Mohan Shumsher given him back as the symbol of surrendering the mandate. The crown fetched him Rs 9 million at the American market. He used that money to treat his incurable disease in Switzerland from where he went to heaven.


From 1847 to 1951, the Rana prime ministers enjoyed absolute power. They not only took everything possible from the common folks but also they deliberately kept the common folks in the extreme poverty believing the better off people would challenged them and demand the rights to live as humans. The Ranas punished anybody doing any innovate work. They expropriated the assets of anybody that had been showy. So, my parents used to tell me, “You have the choice of eating what you like but you have to wear what others like.” The meaning of the statement is to keep the low profile and wear the clothing made of rough clothes so that the Ranas’ attention would not be drawn.


Jung Bahadur was a daring soldier. He was ready to kill anybody only to get into the power. He killed his maternal uncle called Mathabar Singh: the then prime minister. The king did not like Mathabar but he did not have the guts to fire him. So, the king used Jung to shot Mathabar from behind the king in the palace.


Jung was very insightful. When the queen ordered to come to the palace courtyard without arms Jung Bahadur took his brothers with arms kept them at a distance. The queen’s beloved man named Gagan Singh was killed. So, she wanted to find out who did it and punished the culprit. It turned out that Jung must have done it. Jung knowing his life had been at risk called on his brothers with arms and slaughtered the courtiers making the queen helpless. That was the end of the Shah rule and the rise of the Rana rule for 104 years.


Not talking about the eccentric Shah kings in between, I would take you to the Prithvi Shah that had been the screwball. He did not have the respect even for his Godfather Ranajit Malla of Bhaktapur that had tutored him how to win wars and how to keep the power. He was the first Shah that occupied Nepal. Without schooling at the palace of Ranajit Malla in Bhaktapur, Prithvi would have been in Gorkha without knowing where Nepal was. He saw the golden throne of the Mallas that he had never dreamed of. He was monstrously cruel to anybody that opposed him, and to anybody he disliked.


The pets of the Shah rulers had been portraying Prithvi as the unifier of small principalities into the current Nepal disregarding the previous unifiers. If anybody noticed the national flag of today that was the symbol of unifying two Licchevi monarchs: one belonging to the lunar dynasty and another to the solar dynasty.


The Licchevi rule ended in 800 A.D. and Nepal disintegrated into small pieces. Even the neighborhood became a small principality. Then, one Malla monarch unified all the principalities into a single Nepal in 1200 A.D. For four hundred years Nepal had remained in turmoil and integration and disintegration of principalities became the regular political activities from 800 AD to 1200 AD.


The Malla rule had lasted for about seven hundred years. During this period all the public and even the private resources were used for creating the community assets such as temples, public hangout places, public water supply systems, and paths and lanes, and large public squares for the public activities. Cultural development reached the peak even surpassing the then culture of Europe and other highly civilized nations such as China and India.


Nepalese had been the most unfortunate to have the Shah rulers then the Ranas and ultimately the elected rulers that had behaved more like the Shah-Rana rulers than the elected office holders. The consequences had been the absolute poverty to the majority of the Nepalese and the highly luxurious lives as of the Ranas to the politicians and a cadre of their political parties. Nepalese would need to rise up and set the system in which the elected officials would be accountable to the voters. Today, even the president and his prime minister had bluntly demonstrated that they were not accountable to the voters, and they could disregard the constitution crafted by the people’s representatives. These guys had continued the Shah-Rana-styled rule shamelessly tricking the voters into mandating them. These guys had broken every record of corruption elsewhere in the world.


January 10, 2016

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