Leadership Crisis in Nepal
‘I would like to be ruled by a lion than by a hundred rats.’ – Voltaire
Rarely has Nepal seen such a leadership crisis than now. Since the death of late Girija Prasad Koirala, the country has had no single leader who has command over Nepalese politics. At least he had respect among other leaders of Nepal as well as South Asia including India owing to his six decades of political life. Having said that, he had some serious shortcomings though. A true leader has two most important qualities among others – integrity and boldness – which most Nepalese leaders lack today. What differentiates a true leader from others is trust from followers in his leadership and his boldness in decision making. Hitler, Napoleon, Stalin, Mandela, Gandhi, and BP Koirala were all leaders because of these two qualities among others. But, Hitler and Stalin are examples of negative leadership. Nevertheless, they were leaders too who were bold and decisive.
Leadership crisis is a dangerous thing when a nation is undergoing through a crisis. Especially, at this hour when Nepal is transitioning through a political crisis regarding the fate of the nation in terms of federalism, this is strikingly felt. There is no single leader in Nepal today who has command over the fate of this nation. There is no single leader in Nepal today who has trust and confidence from the people. There is no single leader in Nepal who has trust and respect from leaders of other political parties. In many parties, large and small, there is not a single leader who has control over the party. No one is listening to other. No one is respecting other. It seems nobody is in control of Nepalese politics. I see more opportunists than leaders in Nepal who are competing with each other at every step to make short-term political gains at the expense of others. It applies to both the protesting Madhesi leaders as well as the leaders of the big parties. It’s like a game of rats.
This leadership crisis may help to explain why the current political crisis isn’t settling down so easily and doesn’t seem to settle down so easily. It’s been over 4 months since the nation has been throttled by the blockade from some Madhesi parties and India but the solution is anything but close. Let me tell you why? First, the Madhesh protest is driven not just by one party, not also by one camp. Besides, the Madhesi Morcha led by four big Madhesi parties, there is another camp led by Sarat Singh Bhandari and others. And, there is one at the extreme right led by CK Raut. Even within the Madhesi Morcha, no single leader has control over the alliance. Upendra Yadav, Rajendra Mahato, Mahantha Thakur, and Mahendra Yadav are competing against each other for essentially the same agenda. They are competing for political dominance over Madhesh. One has fear that if one compromises for solution, the other will champion the protest and take over Madhesi votes. They are actually five-six swords in the same sheath, who are fighting each other over existential crisis since they have no political ideology. They all are based on the same communal agenda. This intra-camp or inter-party competition among the protesting parties is making it harder for the protest to land peacefully any time soon. There can be only one big party eventually for one agenda or ideology.
Second, among the big national parties, there are divisions within the party and between parties. At least, PM KP Oli has significant control over the UML. Still, the party is divided in loyalty among camps – Oli, Nepal, and Khanal. NC is in much worse condition. In its history, never had NC faced such leadership crisis than now. NC is condemned to be led by same weak, old, and tried and failed leaders such as Sher Bahadur Deuwa and Sushil Koirala. Now, there is another camp growing led by Ram Chandra Poudel. This intra-party division is going to prove costly for the party and also for the nation. Because of the personal divisions, the party has been directionless and visionless and hasn’t been able to come up with a unified decision on critical national issues ranging from the Indian blockade and Madhesh protest to federalism. I don’t have to talk of how the Maoist party has fragmented into four parties till date. Radical parties based on radical ideologies can never remain one party. It has never been so in history. Take the Maoists or the Madhesi Forum of the past or even Sadhvawana. Radical ideologies fuel fire to the already conflicting personal egos among top leaders within the party leading to eventual split.
When America went to civil war, it had Lincoln. When India went through partition, it had Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. When South Africa gained independence from apartheid regime, it had Nelson Mandela. When Nepal is transitioning to a totally new system – federal system, who do we have? Who do we have whom all the people of Nepal trust and leaders of other parties at least respect if not agree to. The answer is none. Unfortunately, we are a nation led by a hundred rats who are deciding the fate of nation calculating their short-term political gains. Thankfully, Indian government has finally realized its mistake and in course of correcting it. By coaxing or pressuring, it may help Madhesi parties to come to dialogue but it can only go so far. Nepal will suffer such directionless and visionless politics for long until we have a strong leader who thinks about the nation and the people before his party and himself. We don’t need a dictator and we never want that. But, what we need is what Abraham Lincoln used to call ‘a democratic dictator’ who can preserve both democracy and the nation while ensuring the rule of law.
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