Kathmandu: Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP), a newly emerged political force of the country, on Wednesday decided to expel lawmaker Dhaka Kumar Shrestha from the party after his audio recording of a bribe deal with controversial businessperson Durga Prasain came to light.
The party, on April 9, had decided to suspend its lawmaker Shrestha immediately after the audio recording asking for a bribe was leaked and mandated the Central Discipline and Conduct Committee of the party to recommend action against him over his involvement in seeking a bribe from a medical entrepreneur.
In mass gatherings targeted for by-elections, RSP chair Rabi Lamichhane had vowed to take necessary actions within 72 hours of the leakage of audio recordings. “If we find any form of involvement, I myself will recommend Nepal Police and Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) to take action against the MP affiliated to our party,” he had pledged.
As pledged , the party’s central committee, on Wednesday, made the decision not only to remove his membership from the parliament but also to expel him from the party membership.
This has happened for the first time in Nepal’s political history. Often, party leadership defends the leaders and cadres who are accused of corruption and bribery, let alone assisting the anti-graft bodies to investigate the cases. None of the political leadership has ever taken action against the leaders even if they are found to be bargaining for commission money.
Beginning of a good practice?
In the whole episode, Rashtriya Swatantra Party (RSP) has been successful in setting a new standard in Nepali politics.
First, the party did not try to cover the allegations directed toward Shrestha, its member and MP. Second, RSP formally decided to allow state agencies including Nepal Police and CIAA to investigate the issue.
As a new and emerging political force, RSP did what it had to do. There are instances that Nepal’s old political forces have failed to set a new standard in terms of accountability and transparency.
This is not the first incident of leakage of secret bribery or corruption deals. In the past, videos and audio of Nepal’s influential politicians in connection to the bribe and corruption were leaked. But the state agencies were not allowed to investigate the incidents due to political protection by the concerned political parties. Here are some of the cases that still remain unresolved:
Maoist chair Prachanda’s statement: On 2 January 2008, Maoist chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal claimed in Shaktikhor cantonment that his party had falsely inflated the number of People Liberation Army in thousands. Later, a video was leaked. But Nepal’s political parties did not dare to demand fair and transparent investigation into his claim. The issue was dismissed without proper attention by the investigation bodies.
Maoist leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara’s 500 million deal: In September 2010, an audio recording of another Maoist leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara was leaked in which he was heard seeking Rs 500 million from a Chinese national. Again, Mahara and Maoist leaders were successful in dismissing the case without proper investigation. No action was taken against Mahara. Today he is the spokesperson of the Maoist Center.
UML leader Gokul Banskota’s 700 million deal: In February 2020, CPN-UML’s powerful leader Gokul Banskota’s audio tape was leaked. In the audio, Baskota can be heard asking for a Rs 700 million bribe from an entrepreneur. Though he was compelled to resign as the Minister for Information Technology and Communication, his party UML did not help the state mechanisms to investigate the issue in a credible and transparent manner. CIAA claims that the matter is under investigation. But it is unlikely that any action would be taken against Banskota given his political connection.
Will RSP be different?
In the previous cases, leaders who were allegedly involved in bribery or corruption were protected by concerned political parties. Their party affiliation was never reviewed by the party leadership. RSP stood out on this front.
The party not only decided to support the investigation process, but also expelled the controversial leader as party member.
“It is obvious that state agencies do not dare to take action against powerful politicians when they are still in power,” a political commentator told Nepal Live Today. “Prachanda, Mahara and Banskota were completely protected by party leadership and they were still powerful in Maoist and UML even their bribe audio was leaked.”
In this context, RSP has set a new record toward transparency and governance, he said. We need to be critical of the new force as well. But the party deserves due credit if it can set a new norm toward transparency and good governance, he said.