THE HINDU EDITORIAL : DECEMBER 28, 2017

 

a) Post-poll ‘chalphal’ in Nepal

The word ‘chalphal’ in Nepali means more than a discussion; it implies an interminable discussion, often for the sake of it, to a point where in the heat and dust of arguments the way forward gets obscured. Nepali politicians revel in this pastime. The post-election ‘chalphal’ currently underway in Kathmandu, unless resolved with maturity, will lead to heightened polarisation in a society that has been in search of political stability for nearly three decades. This has been a watershed year when Nepal successfully conducted three elections — the local body elections after two decades between May and September, followed by the first federal and provincial elections, under the new Constitution, in November-December. The elections were reasonably peaceful and the results have been accepted by all political parties but government formation remains uncertain.

The outcome

The new Constitution provides for a bi-cameral Parliament — a 275 member House of Representatives, of which 165 are directly elected on a ‘first past the post’ (FPTP) system and 110 on the basis of ‘proportional representation’ (PR); and a 59-member National Assembly (NA) consisting of eight members indirectly elected from each of the seven provinces and three nominated members. The Parliament is then convened to elect a new Prime Minister — not that there is any dispute about the fact that the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist) leader K.P.S. Oli will be the PM. In October, the UML and the Maoists came together to form a Left Alliance with the prospects of a merger after the elections. Of 165 seats, the Left Alliance managed an impressive tally of 116, with Maoists getting 36 seats. The Nepali Congress was reduced to a distant third with 23 seats. An understanding between the Rashtriya Janata Party-Nepal (an alliance of Madhesi parties) and Upendra Yadav’s Federal Socialist Forum helped them get 11 and 10 seats, respectively. Interestingly, in terms of the vote count, the gap between the UML and the NC was marginal — the UML getting 33.2% of the vote and the NC maintaining its share at 32.8%, with the Maoists following with 13.7%. Therefore, in the PR category of 110 seats, UML and NC were close, getting 41 and 40 seats, respectively, with Maoists at 17 and the two Madhesi based parties claiming six each. With a total of 174 seats in a House of 275, the Left Alliance led by Mr. Oli is well placed to form the government.

Government formation

Yet the Election Commission of Nepal cannot announce the results. The issue is the methodology of election of the 56 members of the NA for which the Electoral College consists of 550 members of provincial assemblies and the mayors/chairpersons and deputies of the 753 local bodies. Two months ago, the government had submitted an ordinance to President Bidhya Devi Bhandari proposing that the Election Commission frame the rules for the NA elections on the basis of the single transferable vote (STV). This is seen as more representative and enables preference votes to be counted. (Rajya Sabha members are elected on this basis.) President Bhandari, a UML loyalist who owes her position to Mr. Oli, has not signed the ordinance. The results of the provincial assembly elections have given the Left Alliance a clear majority in six of Nepal’s seven provinces. Earlier this year, in the local body elections, the UML won the mayorships/chairmanships in 294 of the 753 bodies, with the Maoists winning another 106. On the basis of the FPTP system, the alliance can win 42 of the 56 seats, giving it a brute majority in the NA. The UML is, therefore, pushing the President to reject the ordinance. The glitch is that the new Constitution provides for 33% representation in Parliament for women, with any shortfall being made up in the PR lists. The precise shortfall will not be clear till the NA members have been elected. Consequently, the names of the 110 PR members cannot be notified, and so the House cannot be convened to elect Mr. Oli as the new Prime Minister. Other political parties led by the NC are adamant on the STV system as being consistent with the intentions of the framers of the Constitution. Even the Maoists are quietly supportive of the STV idea. Mr. Oli is blaming caretaker Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba for delaying tactics and the debate is increasing polarisation. Mr. Oli is unlikely to get his way but needs a political face-saver. The Maoist leader, Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, had joined the alliance thinking that he and Mr. Oli could share the prime minister ship by dividing up the tenure. Given the UML’s strong showing, Mr. Oli is not receptive to such an idea and has suggested that Mr. Prachanda instead become chairman of the new entity once the merger between the two parties takes place. Mr. Prachanda is unlikely to find this satisfactory as it cements his junior status, but his options seem to be limited. The NC has received a drubbing in the FPTP results but its vote share remains intact, which is more a reflection of poor campaign management and disenchantment with the NC leadership than a dent in its political base. Its old leaders have been defeated, pointing to the need for a thorough revamp. Madhesi groups have put up a strong showing in Province 2 indicating that if they work together, they can be a potent force for pushing a forward looking agenda. Further constitutional amendments on inclusivity will have to be pushed through with persuasion rather than agitation and confrontation.

The way forward

Having won a decisive victory, Mr. Oli now needs to display a degree of pragmatism and balance, both at home and with India. President Bhandari has been urging consensus even as she keeps the NA election ordinance pending, and the UML would be well advised to accept the STV in the interests of democracy. A hard line may not only deprive Mr. Oli of his victory but also bring the office of the President into needless controversy. On December 19, Mr. Oli undertook a surprise visit to Rasuwagadhi (on the Nepal-China border) to announce its upgradation to an international border crossing and the entry point for the railway link from Shigatse, nearly 550 km away in Tibet. The gesture was noted in Delhi, as two days later Prime Minister Narendra Modi telephoned him to congratulate him on his election victory. He followed it up with a call to Mr. Prachanda and another to Mr. Deuba to felicitate him on the successful conduct of the elections. Clearly, both sides need to get over the unpleasantness that marked Mr. Oli’s nine-month tenure as Prime Minister in 2015-16. He blamed India for overtly supporting the Madhesi agitation leading to the ‘economic blockade’ and held India responsible for Mr. Prachanda withdrawing support in July 2016 and forcing him to resign. The Indian action, particularly the economic dislocation caused by the ‘blockade’, generated a sentiment of anti-Indianism, effectively exploited in the elections by Mr. Oli in the guise of Nepali nationalism. Except for this short period, however, Mr. Oli has been consistently supportive of better relations between India and Nepal. Playing the China card is not a new phenomenon in Nepal. In the past, China would advise Nepali leaders to resolve differences with India. Things have changed with Nepal now an eager participant in the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative. While Mr. Oli is smart enough to see the risks of too close a Chinese embrace, Delhi too needs to rebuild trust with Mr. Oli. This requires addressing concerns quietly and ensuring consistency of messaging. Fast-tracking implementation of reconstruction and development projects promised after the devastating earthquake in 2015, would be a good signal and in keeping with Mr. Modi’s ‘neighbourhood first’ policy.


WORDS/VOCABULARY

1) Interminable

Meaning: Endless or apparently endless (often used hyperbolically).

Example: “we got bogged down in interminable discussions”

Synonyms: Endless, Unending

2) Obscured

Meaning: Keep from being seen; conceal.

Example: “grey clouds obscure the sun”

Synonyms: Hide, Conceal

Antonyms: Reveal

3) Underway

Meaning: Having started and in progress; being done or carried out.

Example: “recruitment is well under way”

4) Heightened

Meaning: Make or become more intense.

Example: “the pleasure was heightened by the sense of guilt that accompanied it”

Synonyms: Intensify, Increase

Antonyms: Reduce

5) Polarisation

Meaning: To cause something, especially something that contains different people or opinions, to divide into two completely opposing groups.

Example: The debate is becoming polarized and there seems to be no middle ground.

Synonyms: Separate, Dividing

6) Watershed

Meaning: An event or period that is important because it represents a big change in how people do or think about something.

Example: The year 1969 was a watershed in her life – she changed her career and remarried.

7) Bi-cameral

Meaning: (of a parliament, congress, etc.) having two parts, such as the Senate and the House of Representatives in the US.

Example: “a bicameral Parliament consisting of an appointed Senate and a popularly elected House of Assembly”

8) Convened

Meaning: Come or bring together for a meeting or activity; assemble.

Example: “he had convened a secret meeting of military personnel”

Synonyms: Summon, Call

Antonyms: Disperse

9) Dispute

Meaning: A disagreement or argument.

Example: “a territorial dispute between the two countries”

Synonyms: Debate, Disputation

Antonyms: Agreement

10) Impressive

Meaning: Evoking admiration through size, quality, or skill; grand, imposing, or awesome.

Example: “an impressive view of the mountains”

Synonyms: Magnificent, Majestic

Antonyms: Unimpressive, Ordinary

11) Ordinance

Meaning: An authoritative order.

Example: “the president issued a series of ordinances in 1944”

Synonyms: Law, Command

12) Owes

Meaning: Have an obligation to pay or repay (something, especially money) in return for something received.

Example: “they have denied they owe money to the company”

Synonyms: Debt to

Antonyms: Settle up

13) Glitch

Meaning: An unexpected setback.

Example: “the only glitch in his year is failing to qualify for the Masters”

14) Adamant

Meaning: Refusing to be persuaded or to change one’s mind.

Example: “he is adamant that he is not going to resign”

Synonyms: Unshakable, Immovable

Antonyms: Unsure

15) Consistent

Meaning: Compatible or in agreement with something.

Example: “the injuries are consistent with falling from a great height”

Synonyms: Compatible, Accordant

Antonyms: Inconsistent, Incompatible

16) Intentions

Meaning: A thing intended; an aim or plan.

Example: “she was full of good intentions”

Synonyms: Aim, Intent

Antonyms: Accident

17) Blaming

Meaning: Feel or declare that (someone or something) is responsible for a fault or wrong.

Example: “the inquiry blamed the train driver for the accident”

Synonyms: Condemn, Censure

Antonyms: Absolve, Forgive

18) Face-saver

Meaning: Something someone does in order to prevent another person from feeling embarrassed or having to admit that they are wrong.

Example: He realized he was being offered a face saver.

19) Cements

Meaning: Settle or establish firmly.

Example: “the two firms are expected to cement an agreement soon”

Synonyms: Connect, Bond

20) Drubbing

Meaning: A resounding defeat in a match or contest.

Example: “Scotland’s 3-0 drubbing by France”

Synonyms: Defeat, Beating

Antonyms: Win

21) Disenchantment

Meaning: A feeling of disappointment about someone or something you previously respected or admired; disillusionment.

Example: “their growing disenchantment with the leadership”

Synonyms: Disappointment, Discontent

22) Dent

Meaning: Have an adverse effect on; diminish.

Example: “this neither deterred him nor dented his enthusiasm”

Synonyms: Diminish, Reduce

Antonyms: Increase

23) Revamp

Meaning: Give new and improved form, structure, or appearance to.

Example: “an attempt to revamp the museum’s image”

Synonyms: Renovate, Refurbish

24) Potent

Meaning: Having great power, influence, or effect.

Example: “thrones were potent symbols of authority”

Synonyms: Powerful, Strong

Antonyms: Weak, Impotent

25) Persuasion

Meaning: A belief or set of beliefs, especially religious or political ones.

Example: “writers of all political persuasions”

Synonyms: Belief, Opinion

26) Agitation

Meaning: A state of anxiety or nervous excitement.

Example: “she was wringing her hands in agitation”

Synonyms: Anxiety, Distress

Antonyms: Calmness, Relaxation

27) Confrontation

Meaning: A hostile or argumentative situation or meeting between opposing parties.

Example: “a confrontation with the legislature”

Synonyms: Conflict, Clash

28) Decisive

Meaning: Having or showing the ability to make decisions quickly and effectively.

Example: “she had an image of being tough and decisive”

Synonyms: Resolute, Determined

Antonyms: Indecisive

29) Pragmatism

Meaning: A pragmatic attitude or policy; an approach that evaluates theories or beliefs in terms of the success of their practical application.

Example: “ideology had been tempered with pragmatism”

30) Consensus

Meaning: A general agreement.

Example: “there is a growing consensus that the current regime has failed”

Synonyms: Agreement, Concord

Antonyms: Disagreement

31) Deprive

Meaning: Prevent (a person or place) from having or using something.

Example: “the city was deprived of its water supplies”

Synonyms: Strip, Relieve

32) Gesture

Meaning: An action performed to convey a feeling or intention; an action performed for show in the knowledge that it will have no effect.

Example: “I hope the amendment will not be just a gesture”

Synonyms: Action, Act

33) Felicitate

Meaning: Congratulate.

Example: “the award winner was felicitated by the cultural association”

Synonyms: Applaud, Praise

Antonyms: Curse

34) Unpleasantness

Meaning: The state or quality of being unpleasant; bad feeling or quarrelling between people.

Example: “they did not look like thugs, but their faces were stamped with unpleasantness”

35) Dislocation

Meaning: Disturbance from a proper, original, or usual place or state.

Example: “rapid urban and industrial development brought immense social dislocation in its wake”

36) Blockade

Meaning: An act or means of sealing off a place to prevent goods or people from entering or leaving.

Example: “they voted to lift the blockade of major railway junctions”

Synonyms: Siege, Barricade

37) Guise

Meaning: An external form, appearance, or manner of presentation, typically concealing the true nature of something.

Example: “he visited in the guise of an inspector”

Synonyms: Likeness, Aspect

38) Embrace

Meaning: Include or contain (something) as a constituent part.

Example: “his career embraces a number of activities—composing, playing, and acting”

Synonyms: Accept, Adopt

Antonyms: Reject

39) Fast-tracking

Meaning: A route or method which provides for more rapid results than usual.

Example: “a career in the fast track of the Civil Service”

Synonyms: Quick way

40) Devastating

Meaning: Highly destructive or damaging.

Example: “a devastating cyclone”

Synonyms: Destructive, Disastrous


 

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