Politics is the game of possibilities. A shrewd politician chooses the best option out of multiple possibilities. Politics is also pursuit to power. Power has been the guiding motive in politics since the evolution of human civilisation. Even idealist thinkers like Confucius, Plato and Aristotle believed that idealism had a little space in realpolitik. However, they advocated ethical means to attain power. Machiavelli, a realist philosopher, is of the view that politics is a vocation that seeks to power by any means — ethical or otherwise depending upon the situation. Mao Zedong went even one step further championing the use of violence stating ‘political power flows out of the barrel of gun’.
In the present era of realpolitik, the modes and means differ to achieve power. Liberal democracy is the mainstay of modern day politics in which peaceful competition is the primary means to achieve political power. Periodic elections determine peaceful and fair political competition. Parties and candidates who command the verdict of the people go to power and form the government. Nepal has adopted liberal democracy. Elections for the federal parliament and provincial assemblies were held recently that gave a fractured mandate. No political party won majority to form a single party government thus requiring parties to build a coalition and accordingly run the government for the next five years.
No political party is likely to secure a clear-cut majority in parliament under the electoral system we have adopted. Coalition government is, thus, our fait accompli. Now the government, led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ of the CPN-Maoist Centre, has been formed in coalition with CPN-UML, Rastriya Swatantra Party and others. The Prime Minister has already won the vote of confidence in parliament. Only two parliamentarians stood against the government. The present coalition is expected to last for five years but leadership of the government may change in two and half years. However, nothing is certain as behaviour of our political leaders is often unpredictable.
No government has completed its five year term since the multiparty democracy dawned in Nepal. Even if a political party wins majority, it has not survived full five year term. Nepali Congress won two-thirds majority in parliament in 1959 election and its leader BP Koirala formed the government. But BP’s government succumbed to royal coup in less than two years. In 1948 general election, Nepali Congress won majority and the government was formed under Girija Prasad Koirala’s leadership. It, too, fell in three years owing to bitter conflict within his party. Other NC majority government too could not complete five year term. The Nepal Communist Party, which had won almost two-thirds majority in 2017 but this government, too, collapsed due to party’s internal squabbles. Even coalitions have not worked well. But let us hope this coalition will be an exception and will complete full five year term.
Politics does not always move on a straight line. Different political parties had made pre-election alliances and promised to the people that they would maintain the same coalition in the formation of the government. It had earlier been expected that the post-election government would be a coalition one among Nepali Congress, CPN-MC, CPN-Unified Socialist and others. However, it did not happen as leaders failed to keep their promises in the post-election political scenario. In the election, Nepali Congress emerged the largest party. After the election results, Nepali Congress leadership failed to take the coalition partners along giving benefit to CPN-UML.
If Maoist leaders’ claims are at all true, Nepali Congress and Maoists had power-sharing agreement under which Prachanda was to be prime minister in the first half of the next five years while the NCs leader would assume the leadership of the government in the second half. But NC broke the promise and claimed all vital positions including the Prime Minister. Herein lies the sheer failure of the NC to analyse and understand the undercurrent political moves. UML was quick to grab the opportunity and supported Prachanda in premiership. NC badly lost politically to UML.
Maoist leaders had been suspicious of the intention of the Nepali Congress and were simultaneously in talks with the UML for possible power-sharing. The UML had maintained the position that Maoists had to first break the coalition with the Nepali Congress to form another coalition. However, Maoists’ first priority was the coalition with NC. When the Nepali Congress weaselled out of understanding reached earlier with the Maoist leadership, Prachanda declared the end of the coalition with the Nepali Congress that made UML-Maoist coalition possible.
NC was under the assumption that UML-Maoist alliance was impossible and the Maoists would ultimately accept the government under NC leadership. If not NC would form the government as the largest party under article 76 (3) of the constitution. Both UML and Maoists sensed it and hastened to form the alliance at the eleventh hour or two hours prior to the deadline set by the President was to expire. The decision of the UML and Maoists was a surprise to many and a shock to NC. It was so because NC miserably failed to assess the situation and mood of other parties.
NC either did not understand or simply underestimated it. Machiavelli observed that deceits are often the standard tactics in politics. This seems true in Nepali politics. Chanakya Niti says: “Gold is tested in four ways — rubbing, cutting, heating, and beating. So is a person’s integrity. A person is tested by sacrifice, conduct, qualities, and actions”. Thus, it is the real testing time for Prachanda as prime minister. He has to prove his worth as a successful prime minister not by words but by action and conduct.
(The author is former ambassador and former chief editor of this daily. firstname.lastname@example.org)