April 07, Kathmandu-
Last week, social media went crazy with the news of the emminent economist Dr Swarnim Wagle’s dissociation from the Nepali Congress (NC) party.
“I have decided to part ways from the Nepali Congress that has my familial legacy for 50 years and my involvement since the Satyagraha of 2042 BS and People’s Movement of 2046 BS,” Dr Wagle wrote on his Facebook wall.
Dr Wagle’s defection of Nepali congress underlines the much aspired for and needed, immediate shift in Nepali politics- for delivery, good gvernance, and economic prosperity.
Speaking of the by-election, on Thursday, the Nepali Twittersphere went a little insane over an announcement by Swarnim Wagle, an economist and former vice-chair of the National Planning Commission, that he was quitting the Nepali Congress party to join the new Rabi Lamichhane-led Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP). Wagle apparently left the Congress because party president Sher Bahadur Deuba and his wife Arzu Deuba kept interfering to deny him positions and tickets. Wagle, according to The Kathmandu Post, was prevented from becoming an advisor to new Nepal President Ram Chandra Poudel and was also denied a ticket for the upcoming by-election. So he decided to quit and join the RSP which is now fielding him as a candidate for the by-election in Tanahun-2.
Let’s pause here for a second. I was a little surprised at how the Nepali press and social media reacted to Wagle’s announcement that he was leaving the Congress. Just check out this half-page feature in Kantipur just on his leaving the Congress. Most bemoaned the fact that a man of such caliber as Wagle was quitting the country’s oldest party. The idolization of this man was frankly a little bewildering. I understand he’s a sharp economist and he has worked around the world for various multinational organizations. But so many on Twitter seem to believe that he is the end-all-be-all when it comes to economists and if he doesn’t become the next Finance Minister then the country is going to go bust. I’m no economist but to me, Wagle seems cut from the same cloth as Ram Sharan Mahat, the Congress economist who was the architect of Nepal’s turn towards neoliberalism in the 90s. Wagle, like Mahat before him, is a darling of global financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund because he speaks their language of liberalization, deregulation, and privatization. Look at how well that’s worked out for us so far.
It just goes to show, once again, how desperate the Nepali public is for heroes to swoop in and fix the country. For the young, it is populist do-gooders like Rabi Lamichhane and Balen Shah while for the older intelligentsia, it is English-speaking, foreign-educated, INGO-savvy folk like Swarnim Wagle. But like with everyone, I’m willing to hold judgment on Wagle. Let’s see if he even wins the by-election to become a Member of Parliament. Then we’ll see how things go.
Dr Wagle’s statement on facebook can be read here: https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=10115056299985931&set=a.10100398035874711
Courtesy: Off the Record: https://recordnepal.substack.com/p/off-the-record-088-the-politics-of
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/photo? fbid=10115067383614251&set=a.10100921198437741
This is a political paradigm shift: