Nepal's political theatre of the absurd

Published On: August 12, 2020 06:00 PM NPT By: Jiva Nath Lamsal

Jiva Nath Lamsal

Jiva Nath Lamsal

Jiva Nath Lamsal, Lecturer at Central Department of English, TU, is pursuing PhD at Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at University of Sydney.

The lust for power has so blinded the NCP top leaders that they care about nothing but power. Their hubris is leading the country to the point wherefrom there will be no easy exit.

One morning, the people of Thebes come to the palace of king Oedipus requesting him to find a solution to the crisis created by the plague. The king is so filled with his hubris (pride) that he commits to find the culprit, the sinner who is causing the plague at any rate. A blind seer Tiresias advises him to halt his quest because it will boomerang and bring a tragedy to his own life and the lives of the people. As per Greek mythology, Tiresias was a blind prophet of Apollo in Thebes.

The king, with an indefatigable ego, does not listen to his wise advice and continues the search. The events and actions reverse in such a way that the culprit he was looking for happens to be none other than himself! He is the one who murdered his father and married his own mother. The scale of tragedy he has caused is so immense that he can’t even have his eyes open. The revelation becomes so intolerable to him that he pierces his both eyes and is sent away from the city of Thebes forever. 

As a researcher on “Theatre, Performance, Poetics and Politics”, I find the similarity of king Oedipus and our political leaders in terms of the ‘hubris’, the cause of tragedy, doom and downfall. The term ‘hubris’ comes from Greek literature referring to excessive pride, defiance and arrogant attitude.

Lust for power

The political leaders of Nepal Communist Party (NCP) are pointing fingers at each other and are trying to find each other’s faults. Ironically, like in Oedipus’s case, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, JhalanathKhanal and Madhak Kumar Nepal are blaming Prime Minister KP Oli’s tyranny which, they say, is responsible for the chaos in the party and the nation. On the other hand, Oli and the leaders in his faction are blamingDahal, Khanal and Nepal for the conflict in the party. Unlike the fate of king Oedipus, who was destined to murder his father and marry his mother, the fate of our nation and the people hinges on Nepali leaders’ greed and lust for power.

This intra-party conflict and their lust for power have turned them blind. They are spoiling their image, if any, as well as damaging not only their political future but also the future of the nation and the lives and livelihood of 30 million Nepali people. The top leaders of the partyensnared in hatching conspiracy to topple its own government looks so weird and bizarre. The formation of coteries and sub-coteries to sway political positions in their favour has created a shock among all Nepalis at home and abroad. The clash for power and the shameless engagement in dirty politics by top political leaders of the same party going against the mandate of Nepali people given in two phases of legislative election in 2017 has raised question about their efficiency to lead and govern. At a time when COVID-19 pandemic and monsoon floods have wreaked havoc causing untold sufferings, deaths and diseases, it is so disappointing, disheartening and disconcerting to see the political leaders engaged in such a shameless petty vested interest.  Their ‘political burlesques’, to quote playwright AbhiSubedi, is damaging their political future and the future of the nation.

The impact of COVID-19 is increasing day by day causing a huge health crisis in the nation. New cases of infection are increasing. Floods and landslides have ravaged the lives and properties across the nation. Corruption, lawlessness and the lack of governance have made the mockery of democracy. Besides, the quarrel among party leaders solely for power has shattered Nepali people's dream of prosperous Nepal.

Merger of CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre in 2017 had inspired optimism across the country. Fed up with Nepal’s perennial political instability, poverty, corruption and lack of good governance, Nepalis thought may be NCP rule would be different. People euphorically participated in the 2017 elections and voted the NCP to power hoping that KP Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal will not only lead the party effectively but also begin the nation building process.

Betrayal of trust

What we see today is a blatant disregard to people’s trust, hopes and dreams. Current conflict in NCP has once again disappointed Nepali people. The leaders have deceived and misused Nepali people’s mandate. They are wasting the rare opportunity to bring massive socio-economic and political transformation in the country.

Current absurdity seen in Nepali politics, if not corrected in time, will lead to a tragic ending like in classical Greek tragedy. Ruling party and its top leaders are not showing any concern to the sufferings of the people and horrors caused by COVID-19 pandemic. In today's political imbroglio, it is hard to draw a thin line between what is fictitious and theatrical and what is ‘real.’

The leaders seem to be acting like clowns of a farcical play. The absurdity in NCP reminds me of a phenomenal Irish playwright Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. In the play, Vladimir and Estragon keep waiting for ‘Godot’ which never appears. Tired of waiting, Vladimir says one day, ‘nobody comes, nobody goes, nothing happens, it’s awful’. 

The lust for power has so blinded the NCP top leaders that they care about nothing but power. Their hubris is leading the country to the series of crises and to the point wherefrom there will be no easy exit.

Current political drama is akin to ‘dramatic moment of reversal and recognition’ in Greek tragedy. This will be too costly if not reverted on time. The political and socio-economic cost will be too high if the leaders do not stop the current shameless in-fighting for power.

There still is a time to avert the tragedy. If the leaders do not,it will not only bring their own end but also be a big betrayal to the country and people. It will also mark an end to the years of struggles and aspirations of people for development and prosperity. It will mark the end of dreams and hopes of Nepali people. Ultimately, it will create the fertile ground for foreign forces to play in Nepal’s murky political landscape.

When will our political leaders realise this?

The author, lecturer at Central Department of English, TU, is currently pursuing PhD research atDepartment of Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Sydney, Australia




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