Thursday, 6 May, 2021

Power Politics Plagues Democracy


Liladhar Upadhyaya


Fagun 7 of Nepali month of Fagun is remembered as an epoch making day in the history of Nepal. The day the nation saw the light of democracy for the first time, abolishing the 104-year-long Rana autocratic regime. It marked the beginning of the country’s democratisation process. Since then the Himalayan nation has witnessed many ups and downs in the socio-political realm. It has become a federal democratic republic that is the culmination of seven-decade-long political struggles for democracy, equality and social justice.
The current three-tier of federal system is the new experiment for the country. It contains seven provinces and 753 local units, which are in full-fledged operation. Centre is playing a coordinative role to oil the wheel of federalism that is moving ahead overcoming the teething troubles. As per Article 232 of the Constitution of Nepal, the relations between the federal, state and local levels are based on the principles of cooperation, co-existence and coordination. There lie oodles of challenges ahead to institutionalise federalism.
However, Nepal’s democracy that is passing through a zigzag course is yet to deepen and deliverable. No single government has completed its full term in office since 1951. Nepal Communist Party (NCP)-led government under Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli was expected to complete his five-year tenure but it failed to do so with the dissolution of House of Representatives (HoR) and announcement of mid-term election slated for April 30 and May 10 this year.
Politicians used to blame monarchy for the political instability and underdevelopment while some others pointed the finger at foreign forces for the nation’s plight and chronic fluidity. However, like an ostrich they often bury their head in the sand and refuse to admit the fact that their selfish politics is also to blame for the country’s failure to achieve progress and prosperity. It is high time they examine their own their political culture, working style and deeds. The republican set-up is there so there is no ground to accuse the monarchy or any other forces for the nation’s deterioration.
Freedom-loving people
There is a dearth of political education for the cadres and leaders in the big parties – NCP and Nepali Congress. Political parties should be more liberal and democratic shunning all sorts of feudal, unitary and undemocratic traits. It is worldwide trend that people welcome economic socialism which the capitalist nations have been practicing to weaken political socialism adopted by the communist countries. Nepali people are aware of democratic values and culture. They want to enjoy freedom without hindrance. There are many examples in which the any attempt to curtail freedom triggers public outcry against the government.
So, single-party rule – be it in the name of communism or monarchy has become obsolete because democracy has been an indispensible part in the life of Nepalis. Nepali communists have played their important role in establishing democracy and have embraced democratic norms and values, with their continuous participation in periodic election and government. It is better to remove undemocratic provisions, if any, from their party documents proving themselves as more democratic political forces befitting the spirit of the 21st century. Our political system requires sweeping reform rectifying its structural weaknesses. Here this writer seeks to point out some drawbacks of Nepali politics and suggestions to overcome the democratic deficit. They are as follows:
First, political cadres have not received proper education, training and knowledge of democracy. Nepal’s constitution has envisaged reformed parliamentary system. So the political parties have to perform accordingly. One of the preconditions for the effective implementation of the federal constitution is to disseminate political education among key actors and stakeholders. Political leaders and functionaries need such education so as to make them accountable to the constitution and their electorate.
Second, there is the lack of democratisation of parties themselves. They should be able to change themselves and address the genuine issues of the people. Political parties are paying little attention to democratisation process of the political institutions as they have failed to hold their periodic convention for picking new leadership. Subsequently, politics is shifting from party-centric to leader-centric. Democracy automatically suffers when leaders are more powerful than their parties.
Third, the intergenerational gap is creating tension virtually in all parties of Nepal. A handful of leaders have been holding the top posts of parties for decades. They never think of quitting the party politics and opting for another profession like their counterparts do in developed countries. Politicians consider politics as an enterprise of making buck. This is a reminiscent of feudal practice that needs to be eliminated. New generation of leaders are also pussyfooting around when it comes to taking on the leadership mantle.
Fourth, Nepali politics sees a constant decline in ethical values. Political ethics is essential to strengthening and promoting the normative elements of democracy. Leaders must have integrity but this is on the wane in South Asian countries, including Nepal. Many leaders have been involved in corruption scams, personality clash, unethical acts, conspiracies and the breach of rules and constitutional provisions. Neglect of moral principles slowly decays democracy, stripping the country of its essential democratic attributes.

People left high and dry
Fifth, the commoners are left high and dry. Nepal has witnessed scores of political upheavals in the last seven decades but the people have failed to experience positive changes in their life. Hundreds of thousands of youths are compelled to fly abroad for jobs while a large segment of population is forced to live in poverty. The ordinary beings suffer from soaring inflation and have no access to quality education and basic health services. Mafias are ruling the roost as the market enjoys undue leeway in the absence of effective monitoring. Political parties are not giving a hoot about the people’s plight. They are smart in mobilising masses and organising protests time and again, but lack knowledge, skills, vision, planning and experiences in building the nation.
The federal republican system is likely to take a knock if the political leadership fails to address the people's needs and aspirations. Tendency of taking undue benefits from the state and neglecting the people's genuine concerns can hardly help deepen democracy. All stakeholders should refrain themselves from indulging in inimical power politics that jeopardizes nation’s strength, credibility and integrity. Democratic empowerment of the people is a must to make system functional and effective. All responsible actors should make solemn commitment to work for achieving stability, peace and prosperity on the occasion of Democracy Day being marked across the country today.

(Upadhyaya is an Associate Editor of this daily.)