Some of the statements that are being made by CPN-UML chief KP Sharma Oli on the campaign trail are troubling. He has been needlessly spewing venom against Dr Govinda KC, the tireless crusader for vital health reforms. He has promised operating license for a medical college that does not meet even minimal manpower and infrastructure requirements. He has also asked the personnel of Nepal Police, if in not so many words, not to follow the orders of the incumbent government as it won’t be in office for long. All these statements only fuel the old suspicion that the left alliance between CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) has an authoritarian bent, best reflected in its seeming quest to establish the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’. Perhaps Oli and his left alliance do not realize it yet, but such remarks are also unpopular. Why would anyone looking to win an election speak against the saintly Dr KC, who is rightly seen as above public reproach? The alliance also doesn’t seem to realize the popularity of the agenda of sweeping reforms in our health sector, with the ultimate goal of bringing cheap and reliable healthcare to all Nepalis.
There should be basic decorum that defines the conduct of all election candidates, a decorum that is not necessarily encapsulated in any election code of conduct. If election candidates cross this Rubicon, then the contest can quickly turn ugly, marred by baseless allegations, even violence. There have already been far too many instances of violence this election season. The government has been curiously reluctant to act against those who are threatening to forcefully disrupt elections, the communist outfit led by Netra Bikram Chand for instance. Such reckless remarks coming from a top leader like Oli will further encourage these elements that are looking to foil elections. But this is still the lesser danger. A far bigger danger, again, is that if the left coalition gets a majority and goes on to form government, it could look to establish total control over government machinery. This need not necessarily entail establishing a communist dictatorship. It can come in the form of tweaking laws to the satisfaction of the powerful medical mafia that is thought of as close to UML. Or in the form of further decimation of our public schools so that students are forced to migrate to more expensive private schools, mostly run by those close to UML.
It can also mean more curbs on press freedom and free speech. There is no way to foretell. But the signals that the UML chief is sending out are not reassuring. Going into the twin elections slated for November 26 and December 7, it is now incumbent on the left alliance to try to allay these doubts. But thus far it is clear that at least KP Oli thinks that his voters want to see a decisive leader in him, even if projecting such an image comes at the cost of voter interest. Oli, UML and the left alliance should rethink this misguided policy before it is too late.