July 12, 2023
KATHMANDU – If the rumours that Nepal’s political leaders take blessings from foreign powers to make and break governments were being taken with a pinch of salt, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Monday gave citizens enough fodder to make them think that perhaps all those rumours were true after all. While speaking at the launch of a book that recounts the life story of Sardar Pritam Singh, a transport entrepreneur, Dahal said Singh had walked the corridors of power in New Delhi and Kathmandu to make him (Dahal) the prime minister. Only Dahal would know the extent of the blessings he received from foreign powers to clinch the position of the executive head of state, but it is as if he has let the cat out of the bag.
In a political culture high on rabble-rousing and low on content, the prime minister’s tongue-in-cheek remark has already fueled the fire. Opposition parties in Parliament have come together to lambast the prime minister’s callous remark and asked for his resignation while also obstructing the House. The opposition parties are right in seeking a sensible explanation from the prime minister, as an individual holding the nation’s most important executive portfolio cannot get away with a strategically sensitive remark like the one Dahal made. Even as his coterie attempts to gloss over his statement, criticising the opposition for politicising a “sentimental expression”, other top leaders among his coalition partners have found it difficult to swallow it as well.
No matter how the prime minister’s damage-control machinery tries to play down what he has said, Dahal’s statement has dishonoured the sovereignty of Nepal’s Parliament and the electoral mandate of the people who elected him to power. In fact, Dahal, who heads the third-largest parliamentary party, became prime minister by manipulating the numerical politics of a hung parliament following the November 2022 elections. Dahal’s improbable premiership was a display of his power brokerage skills as much as it was of a political culture devoid of ethics. Add to this his recent remark, and that gives ample room to doubt his commitment to the country and the people.
Even if his remark was just a ramble, the prime minister should unreservedly apologise to the people for undermining the sovereignty of Nepal’s democratic system. But this should also serve as a reminder to him and leaders of all political parties that their off-the-cuff remarks often have serious consequences. This is as true in the case of KP Sharma Oli, the UML chairman, as it is in the case of Sher Bahadur Deuba, the Nepali Congress president. In fact, top Nepali leaders across the political spectrum are known to start rattling the moment they get hold of a mic.
Rather than becoming a motormouth while attending insignificant and informal events, the prime minister should get some major things done, such as calling the meeting of the Constitutional Council. Not long ago, Dahal was seen meeting top Indian leaders in the presence of his daughter-secretary Ganga while the foreign minister and secretary were nowhere to be seen. It is incidents like these that expose the shallowness of Nepal’s top leadership while hurting the sentiments of the people. Let better sense prevail among them.