KP Oli dissolved parliament unconstitutionally in December 2020 and he had the audacity to repeat the same mistake with the help of the President Bidya Devi Bhandari in May 2021. He was unconditionally supported by a President who in a midnight political drama dissolved the house and called for elections in November 2021 even after the Supreme Court had already declared this move to be unconstitutional.
It is hard to imagine a context in which a leading politician has squandered a mandate as done by our prosaic and somewhat ignorant former Prime Minister KP Oli. Ignorant in a sense that he seems oblivious to history, constitutional process and above all the rule of law. The gross dereliction of duty of Oli is for everyone to see, but the quintessential feature that led to this abyss has two components:
The first component concerns Oli’s false belief in his popularity among the electorate that is perceived on the ground that the Prime Minister is the first one in the history of the country to stand-up against the dominant neighbor namely India. This is based on the events surrounding the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake when India imposed a blockade that derailed Nepal’s socio-economic development by almost a decade. During these arduous times, Mr. Oli supposedly stood his ground and paved the way for the implementation of the new constitution. Part of this history is true as he was the first Prime Minister when the new constitution was enshrined, but to extrapolate the level of statesmanship that would have been ascribed to Genghis Khan in his heyday is delusional.
However, this is exactly what Mr Oli did. He envisioned himself as the modern avatar of Prithivi Narayan Shah - the popular king from the shah dynasty who is considered the father of modern Nepal - and we the citizens have to follow his command. This also represents the bar that these politicians have set for themselves. If standing up against the neighboring country during a time of natural disaster is viewed as the pinnacle of success, it is hardly surprising that Nepal ranks as one of the least developed countries in the world. Maybe, someday we will have a politician who can take pride in the fact that he/she provided clean drinking water to thirsty citizens even though it took 30 years to complete such a project.
The second component of Oli’s self-aggrandizement is in his tendency to emulate the disgraceful former president of the United States, Donald Trump. From touting the alleged benefit of spices against Covid-19 to confabulating the birthplace of Hindu God Rama to arousing the false sense of patriotism and denigrating every public official who criticizes him, he has tried to match the circus that we come to associate with Mr Trump. In part, this is the zeitgeist of this era where autocratic rulers throughout the world have evoked nationalistic sentiments by scapegoating certain segments of the population. In Oli’s case, this segment happens to be his own comrades.
The only problem with such “take no prisoners” style politics is that Trump was a leader of a country with established political, economic and social structure which is generally governed by the “rule of law”-as a side note, Trump did everything he could to annihilate that political structure, but the system withstood that test. Oli and his confidantes were myopic to the fact that Nepal has an infant democracy with a nascent constitution.
KP Oli dissolved parliament unconstitutionally in December 2020 and he had the audacity to repeat the same mistake with the help of the President Bidya Devi Bhandari in May 2021. He was unconditionally supported by a President who in a midnight political drama dissolved the house and called for elections in November 2021 even after the Supreme Court had previously declared this move to be unconstitutional. If this is not the height of recklessness by two of the highest ranking public officials, I do not know what is. More than that, this is a blatant attempt to squash the very foundation on which this infant republic stands. It is hard to fathom why two politicians at the twilight of their careers were trying to destroy the basic fabric of this republic which the Nepali people have earned through blood, sweat and tears.
These acts of trampling the constitution which is taking its baby steps is not only treasonous but it also sets a toxic precedent that the future Prime Minister and President can exploit. In a country that can have three prime ministers in two years, the level of political instability and anarchy that can result with these acts of overt power grab can have lasting and dreadful consequences.
We don’t need to look further to what happens when the rule of law is trampled by a politician for their personal ambitions. The neighboring countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan are prime examples: in essence, the two counties are on a path to becoming failed states. Corruption, lack of civil society, terrorism and utter disregard for the rule of law have rendered the countries ungovernable.
This should be a lesson to all the concerned parties, intellectual class, civil society, and informed citizenry of Nepal that a reckless Prime Minister and a subservient President are a danger to the republic. At the same time, the alternative Prime Minister given by the apex court, Sher Bahadur Deuba, has held the same position four times before. Mr Deuba, I am sure your name will go in the Guinness Book of World Record, but this time, we do not need a “new” Nepal as vouched by Mr Oli. Please focus on the pandemic and the Monsoon flood. The record book will count itself.
(The writer is an Education Management Consultant at Islington College.)