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Nepal’s businessmen plunge into politics

If there has been one section that has enthusiastically plunged into the chaos of the new political process in Nepal, it is the business community, writes Lalita Panicker.

world Updated: Jun 24, 2008 12:55 IST
Lalita Panicker

If there has been one section that has enthusiastically plunged into the chaos of the new political process in Nepal, it is the business community.

So far at least a dozen businessmen have entered Constituent Assembly (CA). The most prominent is Binod Choudhury, proprietor of the Choudhury Group which has holdings in industries as varied as processed food, hotels, cigarettes and steel.

“I am happy with this total change. We needed this social transformation and this inclusive politics,” he says. He sees no contradiction that a dyed-in-the-wool capitalist like himself has come to Parliament on a Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) ticket.

Choudhury feels that businessmen have been sitting on the fence for too long. “We failed with the old system and we paid a huge price. Today, I feel that our own existence is in question if we don’t make things work. This is why I have jumped into the fray. If the government suggests unsustainable economic measures, people like me will be there to check it. Our earlier policy that we were too superior for the political process was counterproductive.”

The business community has been quick to realise that unless the inequities of the past are addressed, people’s tolerance of any new order will run out.

“Look, whether we like it or not, we have to engage with the Maoists. I don’t want any situation where they feel pushed to the wall and delink from the political process. Yes, things are messy at the moment, but let us give them the benefit of the doubt,” says Choudhury.

Even in the worst of moments, businessmen like Choudhury have been innovative and forward-looking seeking opportunities elsewhere when constrained at home.

Today with a major stake in the Hilton hotel in JKF airport and dozens of resorts and hotels across the world, including India, Choudhury feels that the sky is the limit for Nepal, providing the political process does not let it down.