A Tweet’s Sinister Upshot
Dr. Narad Bharadwaj
Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bimlendra Nidhi amazed all the sensible people by circulating a tweet on Monday saying that the preparations for the upcoming election were not sufficient and that political settlement through dialogue was necessary. If the author of the tweet were not the in-charge of the home security himself, there would be nothing unusual about the tweet. But the position from where he made the slanderous remark has exposed him to mass ridicule.
The tweet which was circulated with a ghostly timeline of 2:41 am is loaded with sinister implications. It reveals that some leaders of the ruling coalition are burning midnight oil only to conspire against the election and lack commitment to make the historical event as a grand success.
The Election Commission has been doing an excellent job of preparing the election with focus on all the aspects of logistical nitty-gritty. However, Home Minister Nidhi’s remark in the social media has dampened the spirit of all the voters eagerly waiting for the great day to exercise their franchise. Irrespective of his purported good intention, it has sowed clouds of confusion among the people and has encouraged the Madhes-based parties to incite the people of the Terai to go against election.
With the election date only less than one month away, people would expect that the ruling coalition firmly leads the people to the polling boots. The ruling coalition has the unique advantage of being supported in its endeavour by the main opposition. This unity of purpose between the ruling and the opposition should have been brought into play to foil the conspiracy of the external and internal forces which are going all out to bog down Nepal in a never ending transition by subverting the election.
Leading the nation to election is the paramount responsibility of all the political parties at present. But the Madhes-based parties are trying to deflect the political course from election to other deeply contentious areas where consensus is not likely. In the beginning they demanded that election should be held only after the task of restructuring the border of provinces and the local bodies was over.
They had demanded restructuring of the provincial borders because it was fraught with complex ramification and was not likely to help in the solution of the problem. The poll date was announced when all the attempts by the major political forces failed to find a meeting point with the agitating Madhesi Front.
The Election Commission has demonstrated a more resolute leadership than those of the political parties. It has announced that the election cycle is already in an ‘advanced stage’, and it cannot be rolled back without grave consequences.
In such a situation, the responsibility of the ruling coalition which has had the privilege of organising the momentous event of election after twenty years becomes all the more important in creating the election environment.
Unfortunately, however, the government authorities are transmitting alarming signals of vacillation and hesitation which is affecting an electoral mobilisation at the grassroots level. The election date was announced for May 14 after weighing out all the risks and benefit factors likely to come into play while holding election on a single day or in phases. It was concluded after careful deliberation that in a fluid political situation like ours, holding election on a single day would be more beneficial than holding it in phases.
If the election is held on a single day, it is successful if it takes place peacefully in majority of places. The success and failure of an election is measured by the voters’ turn out. Even if elections are disturbed in certain provinces, districts, villages or municipalities, elections can be held in these places on another agreed date. In such situation election will be valid and legitimate politically, legally and ethically.
On the other side, if the elections are held in phases, they will have different implications. If we decide to hold election in two phases, election will take place in the troubled Terai provinces in the second phase. In case the Madhes-based political forces disrupt the election making the voter turnout to be too low, the whole electoral process will remain incomplete turning the electoral results of the first phase of the election also null and void.
At present, various international forces, especially the western powers and India are providing an unsolicited advice to Nepal to bring all the forces on board. This is euphemistic way of saying that election without the participation of agitating forces, who do not dare to put their popularity to the test of election, is invalid.
The attitude of some external powers towards our historic election is best interpreted by their silence about the great historical event of election which is being organised to place political power to the hands of elected representatives.
China has warm heartedly supported the election and has provided substantial logistical equipment needed for the election. However, our southern neighbour has not even uttered a single word about the election not to mention giving any moral and logistical support required for accomplishing the great task of institutionalisation of democratic process.
The significance of election cannot be over emphasised in an environment of intense political polarisation when the Madhes-centric forces are refusing to accept election as an unfailing tool for narrowing down differences and renew their mandate with a fresh test of popularity.
Accommodation of all major political forces is indispensable for the increased legitimacy of the election. But it should be done only within the constitutional framework. If constitutional sanctities are flouted for accommodating forces bent on weakening Nepal’s sovereignty, national integrity, cultural diversity and social harmony, it will never make electoral process more inclusive.
At historical junctures, political leadership is expected to possess the ability to identify the central task of the time and to show an unflinching determination to move along the path traced out by the constitutional provisions.
In our case, however, some leaders from the ruling coalition parties appear to be embracing the election only half-heartedly. They do not appear to realise that it is no time for wavering on issues and being captive of indecision. It requires a determined helmsman to navigate through turbulent waters. The present day leadership should be able to stand up to the challenges of time to be able to provide correct direction and momentum to the ongoing political transformation.
Political dynamics are changing. So is the level of social consciousness. If the leaders cannot visualise the future and instil hope among the people, they will soon lose their legitimacy and control.
Over the past week, Deputy Prime Minister and Home minister Nidhi has eroded his image through a series of frivolous acts and expressions. He made himself a laughing stock by raising a fuss over hierarchy of protocol. Now his tweet regarding the inadequacy of security and indispensability of the participation of Madhesi Front in the election to make it a success has exposed his incompetence.
A test of correct leadership is the popularity and unpopularity of policy decisions it takes in time of crisis and upheavals. The ruling political elites have dismally failed to give direction to help the people negotiate their way through the darkness.
Leader’s acts should be guided by ethical principles. They should either hunt or be hunted down. They cannot run with the hare and hunt with the hound. DPM Bimlendra Nidhi has blurred the ethical line by dividing his allegiance between those who want to accomplish the implementation of the constitution through election and those who want to destroy its chances through subversion.