Has NC Lost Ideological Compass?
Ritu Raj Subedi
Immediately after securing thumping victory in the election to the post of party president more than two months ago, Nepali Congress incumbent chief Sher Bahadur Deuba had declared that his party would play the role of a constructive opposition in the parliament. His word of sagacity sent optimism to the political spectrum as he vowed that he would leave all his notorious past behind and no longer play a political Grinch. Before his promise barely got transpired, he was tempted to thrust the country into vicious cycle of instability. He dared to develop an unnatural alliance with the UCPN-Maoist, now the CPN-Maoist Centre, to bring down the KP Sharma Oli-led coalition. After the capricious Maoist chairman dragged his feet, Deuba could not spike Oli’s gun but it considerably dented his own credibility inside and outside the party. The public’s hope to see Deuba as a mature and cool-headed leader was further dashed as he objected to the announcement of local poll and construction of the Kathmandu-Nijgadh fast track with mobilisation of domestic resources. It is irony that the largest democratic party president protested the local bodies’ poll that has been in abeyance for the last 17 years. The NC pretenders demand consensus and solution to the Terai/Madhes issues before fixing the date for local election. Disputing the local election on any pretext vitiates the efforts to shore up that grassroots democracy that has shrivelled under the weight of tedious transition. It will be height of political chicanery to oppose the local election that ensures the people’s participation, mobilisation of local resources, growth of leadership and good governance.
Nefarious Fast Track Deal
Deuba’s impulsive objection to the government’s decision to build the Kathmandu-Nijgadh fast track with its own budget raised eyebrows of many. The previous Sushil Koirala-led government was preparing to award the fast track construction project to an Indian company but it triggered protests with many grim facts in regard to its deal coming fast and thick. As per its detailed project report, the government has to provide Rs 129.60 billion to the company to construct it. The Nepalese government will arrange this amount as the standing loan from India. However, this cost is more than double of the Asian Development Bank’s projection made in 2008. The ADB had estimated that the road would be constructed at the cost of Rs. 55 billion. Now the construction budget can surge up to Rs 60 billion.
The ‘sordid deal’ contains many points that fleece the people and the government. The rate of toll road is jaw-dropping. The goods-carrying big vehicles have to pay Rs 2,500 while the cars and motorbikes should fork out Rs 1,000 and 250 for using the track respectively. The exorbitant charge is sure to push the prices of foods and other goods transported through this road into the stratosphere, crippling the daily life of the needy. The agreement demands that at least 17,000 vehicles ply through this route. Fewer than this number means the government has to stump up the hefty compensation to the investor for 25 years. The accord conspicuously ignores the data of vehicular movement. Only around 5,000 vehicles enter the capital city daily, according to traffic police record. There remains a deficit of 12,000 vehicles. As per the contract, the government will be obliged to pay up over Rs 300 billion in compensation. It is calculated that the total indemnity soars to a whopping Rs 375 billion. Considering that anti-national contents of the nefarious deal will cause big damage to the national economy, the government moved to pull out of it. Why should it fatten the foreign company at the expense of taxpayers when it can itself build the fast track in five years by spending around Rs 20 billion annually? A cabal of businessmen, politicians and bureaucrats are believed to have worked in collusion to award the nefarious contract to the Indian company. There must have been the giving and taking of massive amount of kickbacks behind it.
And it is quite perplexing to note that the leaders of the largest party are defending the controversial agreement that has drawn more criticisms than commendations. This makes the mockery of NC’s professed stand on fiscal discipline, clean governance, transparency and accountability. The NC had better quickly adopt the self-correcting course before it takes a heavy toll on its image that is already under strain. This is not the sole instance that shows the NC is losing its ideological compass. It lacked the courage of convictions in calling the Indian embargo as blockade. Instead of joining other political parties to denounce the cruel and illegitimate blockade, the party preferred to ingratiate itself with the Indian regime to grab power at home. The move brought the consensual politics to disarray and forced the new coalition to stand on the shaky ground all the time. To allow the country running under the precarious alliance means that the government is always susceptible to unethical, irrational and anti-social demands of non-state actors.
The moment the nation got the historic constitution the NC, the CPN-UML and the UCPN-Maoist were on the same page. The NC and UML were far closer than the UCPN-Maoist when it came to the demarcation of the new provinces. But, the NC has now veered off its political track as its leaders are pulling in opposite directions. The party general secretary Shashanka Koirala called for revisiting secularism, federalism and republican set-up. Of late, NC treasurer Sita Devi Yadav dropped a bombshell by stating that her party has supported all the demands of agitating Federal Alliance that is hitting the streets of Kathmandu. Of many demands, it has insisted on rewriting the new constitution. This demand savours of diabolic motive to throw the country into the cauldron rife and instability. Does the NC want to rewrite the new statute to which it is key actor? If not, it must clear its position and does not let the grass grow under its feet.