Saturday, July 30, 2016

Nepal Politics - A Game of Musical Chairs


Article Published @Medium

Nepal will has its its 24th Prime Minsiter in 26 years. Not a bad record.

It was customary for Nepali politicians to call up benefactors for donations prior to Dassain (Nepal’s biggest festival — equivalent of Indian Navaratri or Durga Puja) — as they had to dole out bonus to party workers. This was the time, therefore, for businessmen and corporates to avoid calls.
One year, my assistant Babita — a bright young Nepali woman from the Eastern Hills — received such a phone call. As per “SOP” (Standard Operating Practice) she routinely informed the caller — the boss was not around. Being well accustomed to such dodging tactics — the gentleman informed with authority “ I am former PM, Mr……….X)”. Not to be intimidated — the spunky lady retorted — “so many ex PMs keeping calling, how does one more more matter to me?”. Within a few minute my cell-phone rang and it was the same politician’s daughter-in-law — a well known Kathmandu socialite — at the other end calling to complain about the insult meted out to the old man.

After a private reception — my friend AM from the British Embassy found himself stuck with another ex PM at the Soaltee Bar. With about half a bottle of JWBL inside his sytem — the former PM started explaining to him the 4 Noble Truths of Buddha but even after repeated attempts could not get beyond the 3rd truth. Needless to add that — with every frustrated attempt he would gulp down another shot of whisky — much to the dismay of the young diplomat. who was worried about the charge on his rather frugal “Expense Account”.

One can continue with an unending series of anecdotes. Like one evening at an Indian Embassy Officer’s residence — one more veteran “Purba Pradhan-Mantri” arrived looking visibly ruffled. It transpired that — he was on his way back to Kathmandu from a nearby rural constituency when his SUV overturned injuring all the other passengers — but he himself had a miraculous escape. He still made it to the party after getting all his copassengers admitted at a hospital. No doubt — he needed a few quick drinks to soothe his nerves. But, no sooner he was down a couple — he headed straight to the security attache — a stern lady IPS officer who would not normally brook undue attention — and told her without batting an eye-lid “Lord Pashupati must have saved me — because I was ordained to meet you here”.

And, how can one forget the evergreen K P Bhattarai — who even as PM asked a leading Indian Bharatnatyam Star on stage before a 1000 strong guests — are your Miss or Missus ? The lady smiled and said — doesn’t matter you can call me by my first name. Obviously delighted — he retorted, of course it does because I am still a bachelor (he was well past eighty then).

Finally, this blogger had the fortune of playing host to Prachanda in his first foreign public outing to Delhi. He was overjoyed at the treatment he received comparable to a “state guest”. Back to Kathmandu — soon thereafter one heard stories about how he acquired a Red Pajero, the status symbol of any politician of consequence in Nepal.

But, since moving to a Constitutional Monarchy in 1990 — it has been merry-go-round politics in Nepal with the same old protagonists taking turns as rotational tenants at the PM’s Official Residence in Baluwater — except those parted by death or the few new entrants in the post-Republic phase.
The rules of the game is akin to a political pokemon with a binary equation of “Baiting India” and “Sucking upto China” — with collateral revenue streams from the US and other friendly SAARC countries (read Pakistan) and Aid from Donor Countries like Japan and the EU.

With every churn and each elections — there is more money to be made and the purses of politicians become a little fatter and so the drama goes on.

Very little change for the ordinary people and the privileged few don’t change. That remains the story of the beautiful country with one of the nicest people in the world — living a life perpetually on the brink.