Back in 2006, it was a mesmerizing feeling. The euphoria was unbeatable. Just before the elections of the first Constituent Assembly, I had to leave for India. I was still in service then with the Indian Army, and was crossing the border from Bhairawaha. An elderly lady, most probably in her sixties, started interacting with me in the rickshaw we shared.
'Why are you leaving at this time? Why can't you wait for a few more days and go after the elections? This, after all, is not a small event.' She was clearly disappointed by my disregard of the most important political event in Nepal’s history, and she showed it.
The words, the passion, the emotion, the authority, the hope, and the power that she conveyed is etched in my memory as representation of the mindset that we, Nepali people, had at that stage. We were elated by the end of conflict—we were so happy that the war had ended that we almost believed in the utterly ridiculous promises that our politicians made.
Somehow, and rather sneakily, the monarchy was booted out. Personally, I considered this a progress, but the immorality of the process also bred grudges among its supporters.
This was followed by the Madhesh Andolan and the long running conflicts in the CA. In the process, while the CA was also doubling as the parliament, people began to realize that politics in Nepal is still a loathsome chaotic feudal power struggle that thrives in brinkmanship.
Slowly, dreams were shattered, and the intelligentsia, in their naivety, normalized the ugliness of the stupidity, treachery and immorality.
After eight long years, and after one more election, when the constitution was finally promulgated, a new era of hope emerged. And the local elections held almost after two decades had brought new optimism.
We were made to believe that the Singh Durbar had come to our villages, a metaphor used often by our intelligentsia and politicians alike to suggest the decentralization that has come about through state-restructuring.
After all this rollercoaster ride of history in the 21st century, today, we are in the midst of a crisis yet again. At the center in Kathmandu, we have a government of the party that has a huge majority in the parliament, but infighting between its two chairmen has made it look like a circus. The power struggle has become so illogical and shameful that everything and anything that can be blamed on each other is being penned and named a political proposal for party unity. Ultimately, it has led to a public display of utter nonsense packaged under the name of the communist movement.
The provincial governments haven't been able to justify their existence in past three years, and the local governments, where the people are directly in touch with the state mechanism, have become a hotbed of malpractices.
At the present, our governments, at all levels, are facing a double whammy of incompetence and immorality. Wastage of resources from ill-conceived plans and projects are rampant. At the same time, local politicians are busy exploiting the state and natural resources for personal gains.
For example, many ward chairmen, in the rural municipalities, are owners of bulldozers. And no doubt they spend most of the money from government budget in these bulldozers.
Now, at the end of 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, I find the whole situation befuddling. How did we end up here? Where did we lose track? What's the way out of this vicious circle?
I have spent most of my youth writing optimistically about Nepal's politics. I have vouched for alternative politics in the hope that new and younger leaders would bring new changes in the ecosystem that will in turn nudge institutions involved in nation building.
I have also directly gotten involved with the local government at my hometown, as an advisor, with enthusiasm, in the hope that if we lay the foundation now, we will build a better future for generations to come.
But things obviously did not work as we had envisaged or were made to believe. And from personal experience, I can say that the politicians are not the only ones to be blamed.
Nepali society has a high level of tolerance for corruption, and no regard for efficiency and competence. This attitude dominates the way our institutions function, including our government and private agencies. Is there a way out? How do we challenge this?
The only way out of this dark tunnel is for Nepal's educated youths to take the onus. Things won’t change unless we demand respect for competence from ourselves, from the institutions we are involved in, and our society. Unless we stake claim in political and social leadership, unless we dirty our hands and step out of our comfort zone, we do not have the moral authority to expect as much from politicians. For unless we do away with this immorality and incompetence, we are doomed.
The indicators from the mass rallies in support of monarchy are not good. We definitely don't want to jump into the fire from the frying pan.