Discipline, a fundamental pillar of organised living, permeates every aspect of human existence, shaping thoughts, actions, and societal structures. It is a guiding force in professions, education, and all walks of life, providing a framework for well-organised and cohesive societies. Whether one is a teacher, student, politician, or an ordinary individual, discipline is the linchpin that transforms work into a well-organised, thoughtful endeavour. The perception of discipline varies across cultures, often deeply rooted in the geography and regional upbringing of individuals. Cultural values and human principles are intertwined with the idea of discipline, presenting a nuanced perspective. At its core, discipline embodies organised thought and behaviour, fostering a structured approach to life.
In the context of Nepali politics, discipline has been an elusive ideal, akin to a distant shore that remains beyond reach. From the grassroots level to the echelons of power, including organisational, institutional, and political domains, leaders who are expected to epitomise discipline and leadership have often faltered in upholding these principles. The lack of political discipline has made any system in the country skeptical. The fight for democracy and democratic practices gained momentum, culminating in the establishment of multiparty democracy in 1990. Subsequent political systems, including the Maoist insurgency era, witnessed significant shifts. However, the anticipated improvements in livelihoods, economic conditions, and cultural dynamics have eluded realisation.
The democratic transition, marked by the uprooting of the monarchy and the establishment of a Democratic Republic, was met with aspirations for prosperity and positive change. However, the current reality starkly contrasts with these expectations. Many Nepalis, disheartened by economic challenges, seek employment opportunities abroad, highlighting the unmet expectations with the existing political systems. The emergence of new political entities, exemplified by the Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) and other independent candidates who own local elections, reflect the disillusionment with existing political structures. Calls for the reinstatement of the monarchy, voiced by individuals like Durga Parsai may seem impractical, but they serve as manifestations of frustration with the status quo or there might be other hidden agendas one may not be aware of.
Similarly, Rabindra Mishra, who was formerly a member of the Shajha party and later joined the Bibekshil Shaja party, advocating for a democratic republic in Nepal, has now assumed the role of vice-chairperson of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (National Democratic Party), demanding, the return of the monarchy. While the practicality of such demands may be questionable, they underscore a broader discontent with the performance of political parties and their lack of disciplined practices, and thus losing the credibility of their leadership and what they say vs. what they do. The absence of discipline in political practices can yield dire consequences, manifesting in instability, corruption, and the erosion of democratic foundations.
Historical instances exemplify this, such as Robert Mugabe's presidency, where a lack of governance discipline resulted in haphazard land reforms and widespread corruption, precipitating economic collapse, hyperinflation, and a humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe. Similarly, the Arab Spring (2010-2012) showcased the ramifications of political indiscipline, as governments' failure to address corruption, limited political freedom, and economic mismanagement ignited widespread protests. The ensuing lack of political discipline contributed to upheavals, civil wars, refugee crises, and the emergence of extremist groups across the Arab world. Another poignant case is Venezuela under Nicolás Maduro (2013-present), where economic mismanagement and corruption, coupled with a dearth of political discipline, led to hyperinflation, mass emigration, economic collapse, and pervasive poverty.
These historical illustrations underscore the severe consequences of political indiscipline, ranging from economic crises to political upheaval and the perilous collapse of nations or political systems. Discipline stands as a vital pillar for upholding democratic integrity, ensuring effective governance, and securing the welfare of citizens. The need for disciplined political practices extends beyond individual leaders to encompass the bureaucracy, a crucial component of governance. The bureaucratic machinery, often considered the backbone of governance, requires disciplined practices to ensure effective policy implementation and the fair administration of justice. Discipline is not a mere virtue; it is an imperative for the betterment of Nepali politics and society.
The lack of discipline in political leadership and bureaucratic practices has contributed to the prevailing disillusionment and discontent among citizens. The call for a disciplined approach to leadership, characterised by adherence to principles and organised political conduct, is crucial for steering the country toward progress. The intricate dance of Nepali politics demands discipline not only in the executive but also within the legislative and judiciary branches. The legislative processes, including constitutional amendments and rewrites, have aimed to usher in positive changes.
Democratic discipline involves utilising principles of freedom, justice, and equality involving the marginalised in decision-making processes, and emphasising responsibilities and balancing individual and collective rights. It is not just for power mongers to use democracy as the appearance of democratic principles to gain domestic and international legitimacy. It should in the interest of people and their safe and prosperous future. In his article “Democracy Is Discipline and Self-Restraint,” Odeh Aburdene writes that democracy entails the gradual adoption of common principles and values such as freedom of expression, equality, and the rule of law, emphasising the importance of discipline, self-restraint, and a transparent capitalism to establish a just and fair society.
It is imperative to underscore the urgency of a disciplined approach to leadership, one that fosters positive change and reflects the aspirations of the diverse population. As Nepal navigates these choppy waters of political discontent, discipline remains the compass that can guide the nation toward a better tomorrow. It is not a luxury but a necessity for transforming frustration into optimism, constructive dialogue, and tangible changes that benefit all citizens. In the complex tapestry of Nepali politics, discipline is the key to unlocking a path toward a prosperous and harmonious future.
(Acharya is Director of Social Sciences Department at Nexus Institute of Research and Innovation.)