- Prof. Dr. Jiba Raj Pokharel
The world has witnessed the miraculous ascent and descent of political leaders in numerous occasion in the past. One of them is the phenomenal rise and fall of Rabi Lamichhane, the President of the Rastriya Swatantra Party(RSP), the former Deputy Prime Minister and the Home Minister. What were the factors that contributed to this mixed state of affairs? This has been one of the voices that have been resonating in the hallowed political corridors of Nepal. His outburst in a press conference after his exit from the Government dominated by his allegation of the Nepali media which he dubbed as the twelve brothers has also raised hornet's nest in the nation's fourth estate. This has triggered waves of appeals and statements from the media institutions and the persons.
History has however been loaded with such incredible events right from the mythological era. One of them was Abhimanyu of Mahabharat fame who in young age could perform the non-performable. He could break the circle created by his adversaries which was a great heroic deed but succumbed to a cruel murder from his senior adversaries as he knew to enter but not to exit. In the Malla period in Nepal, Kaji Bhim Malla a business magnate in the early seventeenth century during the reign of King Laxmi Narasimha Malla earned name and fame in no time by flourishing trade between Lhasa in Nepal, to the extent that Nepal could get the property of Nepali traders. It is said that Kuti came under Nepal due to his endeavor but he was served a death penalty without making an adequate assessment on the charge of attempt to take over the state affairs. The King later realized his folly and became insane due to repentance.
This phenomenon of tall poppies which is marked by the attainment of dizzy heights followed by a nose- drive has been a subject of study in political academia. One of the striking example is the fall of Bob Hawke, the former Prime Minister of Australia accompanied by the rise of his successor Paul Keating spontaneously with that of John Hewson, the leader of the opposition party. A study based on the attribution theory, by taking variables such as causal attributions, beliefs about deservingness, the personality characteristics of the political leader and affective reactions either to the political leader’s success and hypothetical fall from his high position has revealed interesting findings.
In our society, competence and integrity are positively valued attributes of the person and the person's behavior, and arrogance is a negatively valued attribute.
A survey carried out by N. T. Feather by taking 204 people followed by its multiple regression analysis has revealed that when the success of political leaders can be attributed to competent behavior (ability) and to behavior that is seen to reflect integrity and a lack of arrogance, the success is more likely to be seen to be deserved. On the other hand, when the failure of political leaders can be attributed to incompetent behavior (lack of ability) and to behavior that is seen to reflect arrogance and lack of integrity, the failure is more likely to be seen to be deserved. In our society, competence and integrity are positively valued attributes of the person and the person's behavior, and arrogance is a negatively valued attribute. Thus deservingness or otherwise arising from competence, arrogance and lack of integrity forms the spine of the success or failure of a political leader.
In order to determine the factors behind the spectacular rise and fall of Lamicchane, it is necessary to delve into his past. He rose from a modest background and entered into the field of journalism. He tried his luck in Nepal but after failing to achieve success he migrated to the United States in 2007. He came back but again went to America which is widely believed as a land of opportunities. He again came back to Nepal by abandoning the US passport. In the process, he did not revive the Nepali passport which he had given up before taking the American passport.
Mr. Lamicchane came in the limelight after hosting a longest marathon Television transmission on the theme "Buddha was born in Nepal" in 2013. He was alleged with two others to drive one of his Television mate Shalikram Pudasaini to suicide and put behind the bar. But he was released on bail after a mammoth rally in Chitwan protested against this allegation and was cleared from the Supreme Court.
This was a time when the front line parties in Nepal, the Nepali Congress(NC), the United Marxists and Leninists(UML) and the Maoist Central(MC) had become unpopular following their failure to bring change in the lives of common citizens and that of the country. Consequently, quite a few independent candidates registered victory in the Kathmandu Metropolitan city and outsides. He formed RSP and within few months, his party was able to have 20 parliamentarians elected in the Federal Election. His party emerged from nowhere to be the fourth largest party after NC, UML and MC. He was made the Deputy Prime Minister and the Home Minister in the Government of the seven party coalition led by MC after it eloped politically with UML thereby breaking the five party coalition led by the NC.
The question arises as to whether he really deserved to reach to the pinnacle of success. Did he have the competence or was it just a matter of fluke? Was he modest and sported humility?
A writ petition was filed against him for not restoring Nepali passport after deserting the American passport. The Supreme Court relieved him of all his posts including the citizenship following which he became stateless until he again got the Nepali citizenship.
The rise and fall of Lamicchane should be judged against this theoretical and actual backdrop. The question arises as to whether he really deserved to reach to the pinnacle of success. Did he have the competence or was it just a matter of fluke? Was he modest and sported humility?
The case of Abhimanyu was sheer incompetence because he knew how to break the circle but he had no clue regarding the exit. It is said that his father Arjun had told the whole episode when he was in his mother's womb but could not learn the later part as his mother fell to sleep during the narration. Bhim Malla's case was that of conspiracy hatched by those envious of short time success.
As for Bob Hawke, the study has shown that it was lack of ability that created the downfall of Bob Hawke. However, its presence led to the rise of Paul Keating and John Hewson even though it can be argued that the fall of the former contributed to the luck of the later leaders.
Lamicchane's rise was because of the competence he had but it should be admitted that the dismal performance of the front line parties had a hand in making him competent. The fall was due to the arrogance because he did not resuscitate the Nepali citizenship even though suggested to do so. The arrogance was visible in the press conference when he blamed some of the twelve brothers by taking their names which political leaders with modesty and humility barely do so.