As we celebrate the 68th Democracy Day, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and CPN (Maoist Center) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal are engaged in multiple rounds of meetings to finalize party unity, another democratic exercise, and giving full shape to the government. Of all the places, these two leaders chose to meet at a home of Durga Prasai, a businessman involved in running a controversial BNC Medical College in Jhapa. This is not the first time that these two leaders met at a residence of businessperson with the questionable background. This is not how the new PM should project his image. People are closely watching his every word and action. He comes to the office with a clear mandate to carry out campaign promises of prosperity. But it appears that our leaders have not changed. Choosing to meet in private residence of businessmen who are hell-bent on getting something to their like is not a good practice. Such a practice only invites anger, ridicule and speculation in the public.
The two leaders have a plenty of places to choose from if they want a peaceful venue for meetings. Singha Darbar has multiple good meeting rooms; they have their party offices and parliamentary party chambers there. If needed, the big hotels also have good space and rooms of their choice. Why are these spaces not being considered? The bigger question is: why are our leaders so keen to be the guests of these businessmen while discussing crucial issues of party unity and other issues of vital national interest? The people have the right to ask these questions and the leaders have to be answerable to the public. Leaders elsewhere have to even resign from the office if they are found using private meeting spaces to discuss national affairs. Several members of US President Donald Trump’s campaign team are being currently investigated for meeting Russians privately to discuss bilateral issues. Some members of Trump’s campaign will end up going to jail if they are found to have made improper contacts with the Russians during the election campaign.
While the context might be somewhat different, the subtext is similar in Nepal. Leaders entrusted to lead should do so by example. Their conduct is a matter of public discourse. They do not have the luxury of choosing objectionable individuals and places to conduct party and state affairs. This is a blatant breach of trust that the people have bestowed upon them in the polling stations. We hope that our leaders think twice before they happily accept private homes as meeting venue next time around. This is especially important for PM Oli and former PM Dahal. They have to live up to people’s expectation. We just cannot let these distractions as an excuse to abdicate from their difficult job of leading the country to prosperity.