Ram Bir Manandhar who was elected to the House of Representatives (HoR) from Kathmandu-7 has announced resignation. He has declared that he resigned to get Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) leader Bam Dev Gautam elected. CPN has yet to take a decision on Manandhar’s resignation and giving ticket to Gautam. We want to ask the CPN leadership the following five questions before it takes that decision.
1. Voters in Kathmandu-7 have got Manandhar elected to the parliament for five years. He is resigning less than a year into his five-year term. What is the reason behind his digression?
Manandhar has argued that the country will be developed if Gautam gets to the parliament. There is not even a trace of truth in this claim. The confidence with which he gave this false reason during the press conference proved that he was not worthy of people’s trust in the first place.
Many suspect that this resignation episode is related to personal development of Manandhar and not that of the country. Many estimate that his resignation is connected to financial benefits, and assurances of National Assembly membership and a ministerial berth. CPN must investigate, if it is unaware of these estimates and suspicions, why Manandhar turned his back on the voters’ faith on him and the party. We firmly believe that a few leaders and lawmakers can digress sometimes but the whole party should not be part of that digression.
2. Top leaders could contest from more than one constituency until the election in 2013. Such exploitative practice is rare in any democracy and was vehemently opposed right from the beginning. But many leaders worked hard to retain that provision amidst all the opposition. The leaders rejected by the voters of one constituency got to the parliament riding on the back of votes from another. Those who won from both the constituencies relinquished one later. By-elections had to be held there spending the taxpayers’ money. The state’s resources were wasted and the voters suffered.
The provision was removed in the latest general election after efforts of years. Holding a by-election in Kathmandu-7 to get Gautam elected spending tens of millions from the state coffers would mean undoing that reform.
Undoing such reforms would be a disgrace to democracy and system. This will increase public disenchantment toward democracy.
Much more qualified leaders have lost election before Gautam. Sage leader and the then prime minister Krishna Prasad Bhattarai lost in the first general election after restoration of democracy in 1990 to general secretary of the then CPN-UML Madan Bhandari. He was the tallest among the politicians who contested the general election due to his political contribution from the time of Rana regime, determination to fight the Panchayat regime staying in Nepal, leading role in promulgation of the constitution a year earlier and his simple life and great intellect. But he lost the election. There were talks within Nepali Congress (NC) and outside about taking him to the parliament even by vacating a constituency. Many NC lawmakers were ready to resign for Bhattarai. But Bhattarai refused. Democracy’s dignity was saved.
Gautam is hell-bent on demolishing that dignity. His thinking can be read on the basis of the restlessness that always drives him. But can that restlessness and personal ambition overshadow the behemoth that CPN is, and its government with two-third majority?
3. The world did not end when Krishna Prasad Bhattarai did not get to the parliament and it will definitely not end when Gautam is not in one. Gautam is among leaders with many weaknesses among contemporary politicians in stark contrast to the tall stature and impeccable conduct that Bhattarai had among his peers. Abuse of power and position, alliance with power centers and bad governance have been the hallmark of Gautam’s politics.
He was implicated in the gold smuggling scam when he first became home minister. A parliamentary probe committee clearly hinted at his complicity in the scam. The malpractice of smuggling gold through the Tribhuvan International Airport was institutionally established during his term. Gautam and the late NC leader Khum Bahadur Khadka have played a leading role in getting that malpractice established. The recently published biography of former IGP Achyut Krishna Kharel proves that further.
Gautam showed no signs of improvement when he last became home minister in the Sushil Koirala government. He took a stand to promote corrupt and badly-performing DIGs to AIGs. That ultimately led to appointment of an unprecedented seven AIGs in Nepal Police and the number of AIGs increased to 13 after the court ordered appointment of another six.
Many shady political developments in Nepal further stigmatize the conduct of politicians. Appointment of Lokman Singh Karki as the chief commissioner of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) was one such incident. The greatest interest behind Karki’s appointment at the CIAA was that of the Indian intelligence agency. Many NC and communist leaders opposed that and many supported it. Many feigned ignorance for tacit support while some played a major role in appointing Karki as the chief commissioner of CIAA. Gautam was one among the latter ones. For which relation and to fulfill whose interest was he mobilized then?
Politicians un/knowingly make many mistakes in a long political career. It is not possible to dig all of those mistakes and that takes us nowhere. But how can CPN move forward if the leaders with such weaknesses are repeatedly revived and get to dominate the party and stymie the growth of capable leaders of the next generation? How will democracy flourish?
4. We have yet to be told why Gautam wants to become a lawmaker by removing another elected one. The reason for his insistence is yet to be known. His claims make one feel that the government cannot work and the party cannot function without him in the parliament.
Have the government, parliament and party really become sluggish because Gautam is not in the parliament? What led Gautam to falsely believe that KP Sharma Oli has not been able to run the government, ministers have failed to govern effectively, and no CPN leader has played an effective role in the parliament, and his mere entry in the parliament will immediately resolve all these problems?
This illusion in itself is Gautam’s problem. His illusion will start to destabilize the party and the government from the day he gets elected to the HoR.
The party has yet to take a decision on asking its elected lawmaker to resign. The decision to ask Gautam contest the by-election also has not been made. But he has already made Manandhar announce resignation through unscrupulous maneuvers. One chairman has already read Manandhar’s resignation letter in the secretariat meeting. What does this forebode?
5. The by-election in Kathmandu-7 will be a virtual referendum on the government if the party somehow accepts Manandhar resignation and Gautam contests in the by-election. The by-election will be an opportunity for the voters to express their displeasure over betrayal by Manandhar and the preliminary performance of the government. We don’t believe Gautam will win the by-election. Our interaction with 51 voters in the constituency hints so. Gautam’s loss in the by-election will be a big psychological setback for the government and party. The party will be mired in internal bickering and the government will be destabilized.
The left alliance contested the last election under Oli’s leadership and the mandate is for him to lead the government for five years. Destabilizing that will not just be a loss for the party but also be detrimental to the country.
We believe the CPN government is already reactionary and is unnecessarily defensive. The government has yet to be familiar with governance. But the government has an unwarranted feeling of guilt about not being able to perform. It has hardly been behind the wheel for six months and it has time to learn from its experience, mend its ways and make itself effective. Results of good works done by some ministries will come in time.
We, therefore, firmly believe this is not a time to risk a virtual referendum. It is time for the government and party to focus on work without letting Gautam’s unfulfilled political ambitions cast a shadow on itself. What does the CPN leadership think?