Continuity of Deepak Manange in Gandaki cabinet: What does it indicate about the politicization of crime?

Nishan Khatiwada

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: Government changed, the ruling party changed but Rajiv Gurung alias Deepak Manange remained in the cabinet for the second time in Gandaki province, despite being a notorious criminal arrested a number of times—even a red corner notice issued against him. And, the same opposition alliance which spent every hour criticizing the previous appointment of Manange in the cabinet is the one to bless him with the post again.

Minister again

The Gandaki Province government led by CPN UML had appointed Rajiv Gurung (Deepak Manange) as the Minister of Youths and Sports on April 29. That move of the ex-government in the Gandaki Province had brought in controversies and outrage. Political analysts criticized the move of the then chief minister Prithvi Subba Gurung for putting a man, accused of and arrested in many criminal cases, in the post of a minister.

Gandaki province politics witnessed many twists and turns after that. CM Gurung failed to gain the vote of confidence and the opposition alliance of Nepali Congress, CPN Maoist Center, JSPN, and Rastriya Janamorcha, with 31 lawmakers in hand, formed a new government with Krishna Chandra Nepali Pokharel as the chief minister. The four aforementioned parties could only have garnered 30 votes but an independent lawmaker who was previously with the ruling CPN-UML’s government switched ‘allegiance’ and unexpectedly appeared as a guardian angel. Deepak Manange joined hands with the opposition alliance to make the number 31. 

In this way, the opposition alliance sought help from Rajiv Gurung (Deepak Manange), the same man whom the opposition alliance and leaders had criticized as a gangster in the assembly and government. That’s not all. Manange got appointed as the minister without portfolio on June 12 for the second time in the new government led by the opposition alliance.

Baburam Bhattarai, a prominent opposition leader from JSPN, when faced with questions about meeting Manange before the power change in Gandaki province, admitted that he had met Manange. The acceptance was accompanied by an explanation ‘Ratnakar also had become Balmiki. The statement is a hint that the opposition alliance has all of a sudden taken Rajiv Gurung as a saint (Balmiki). At the same time, Prithvi Subba Gurung concluded that all the Ratnakar will not turn into Balmiki

Unlike a Balmiki, Manange while giving an interview with media, made objectionable remarks about Ramesh Kumar Silwal, Member Secretary of National Sports Council. He blamed that Rajesh Gurung, board members from Gandaki province, used to manage liquor for Silwal. Manange also said indecent words about Silwal’s family members. 

 “Every political party, while in opposition, objects to such practice, but they resort to the same practice when they have to reach power.”

Interestingly, Bhattarai had tweeted earlier criticizing the support given by Manange to ex-chief minister Gurung. The same is the case for other leaders of other opposition parties who had criticized the appointment of Manange in the ministerial post. This has brought questions regarding the credibility of the opposition’s stand to the forefront.

Crime and politics

Samikshya Baskota, a leader of Bibeksheel Sajha Party, termed the appointment of Deepak Manange’s reappointment as the minister in Gandaki government as the fresh reminder of the political parties (whether CPN-UML or NC) protecting criminals in politica. “Our political parties have been using accused and arrested people such as Deepak Manange for vested power struggle for a long time. The same has happened in Gandaki,” she said.

Giving him the post of minister means the opposition alliance did no better than the CPN-UML. It reflects that politicization of crime is being institutionalized in Nepali politics, according to her.

Jagat Nepal, a senior journalist, writer and political observer, has felt that the era of politics of morality, honesty and principles has come to an end after the appointment of Manange as a minister for the second time. “There is a deep-rooted mentality in our political parties that power stands above all, even if that means bringing people like Deepak Manange, accused many times for criminal cases, in the cabinet. Every political party, while in opposition, objects to such practice, but they resort to the same practice when they have to reach power,” he said. “That’s what has happened in Gandaki.” 

According to him, to some extent, people are also to blame for this. In most cases, people also choose corrupt people who can spend a lot of money in elections. That’s part of the reason people like Manange become ministers, he said.

 Samikshya Baskota says the new government of Gandaki Province is least bothered about the suffering of people. The first decision the government made was about increasing the facilities for the CM, forget pandemic and development issues, she said. “It is a pity that even the new government ignored today’s necessity.” 

Nepal, for his part, sees no difference between the new government and its predecessor. He said, “We should not always see Deepak Manange from a criminal perspective. But, the goal and intention of the new government is not justified and no better than the previous one. We don’t see good signs after the first decision of the new government.” 

According to him, it is the flaws in the leadership level and that people like Manange get the opportunity only and only if the political parties let them.