Thursday, 6 May, 2021

Consequences Of Power-centered Politics

Bhupa P. Dhamala


It is quite surprising to see that Nepal has undergone menacing political turmoil and turbulence even in the democratic regimes. Just from the civil rights movement against autocratic Rana regime to the revolt against totalitarian Panchayat system to agitation against the monarchy Nepal has always been confronted with unstable politics and sluggish economy. The dream of making Nepal a promised land of peace, progress, and happiness has not been realised in any sense even as the republican form of government holds its sway.

Root Causes
There might be several reasons for this misfortune but two most obvious ones are undeniable. In the first place, leaders have little understanding of the very essence of political ideology they want to propagate. Secondly, they are relentlessly engaged in uncompromising struggle for power. Any considerate person can easily understand that the leaders spend their most of the waking hours in thinking about how to get to the power and mobilise resources to serve their own interests. They might as well use their valuable time in intensive study of the positive aspects of global political affairs to fit them in the national context in favour of the nation and the people. Instead of using their energy to rouse cadres to action for the development tasks, they are on the contrary exciting them to abuse the leaders of different opinions. Needless to further explain, there is conspicuous contradiction between their saying and doing.
Every state runs with an ideology that is fixed after the general consensus is reached, very often through elaborate discussions in the parliament, or sometimes, even through national political movement. It can be worthwhile to refer to French philosopher Louis Althusser (1970) who said state affairs are operated by ideological apparatuses. It is in this sense that there must be a substantial inflexible ideology imbued with ideal principles and down-to-earth practices to guide all political parties which are entitled to form the government and operate the state affairs when they win periodical election.
After the promulgation of new constitution, major Nepali political parties claim they are guided by the ideology of socialism. Nepali Congress is advocating for democratic socialism, a blend of political freedom and social justice. Communist parties have long been talking about scientific socialism that aims to establish the rule of proletariat against the bourgeoisie. Lately Madhesh originated People’s Socialist Party (JSP) has also announced socialism as their political agenda. Socialism has thus become a popular political catchphrase that has been used by almost all political wings in Nepal, albeit in different forms, meanings, and methods.
But to our dismay, we have not yet experienced the fruits of socialism. Notwithstanding the best principles of political, economic, and cultural aspects it contains, it nevertheless fails to exist in its true sense just like Sisyphus’s huge boulder falls every moment he desperately raises it to the hilltop. Socialism has only turned out to be ill-fated in Nepal despite attempts of political actors to establish it as the best system.

Contrary practices
One of many reasons for the declining role of ideology in Nepal is the dominance of organisational force over the ideological power. Each party is a jumble of disjointed leaders who often practice double standard. When a leader seizes majority power in the organisational structure, they say majority must be granted. If they are in minority, they say ideology is more important than the number that forms majority. Since inception democratic parties have been more engaged in the struggle for seizing the state power for sordid gains than in strengthening the state with the power their ideology generates.
The same has happened in the case of ruling party now. CPN-UML is divided into two power camps and each is trying to negate the other. People are tired of listening to their mutually exclusive claims to prove themselves absolutely right and the other utterly wrong. As we well know, the leader of one faction is in no way superior to the other in terms of thought and behaviour. It is absurd to blame the other if one had practiced the same when they were in power. Let us recall that the now opposed leaders were previously in unison when they had to exclude the then opposed leaders from action, and that too was not on the ideological basis but on the basis of power of the organisational force of majority which they claimed must be granted.
The members of the party rank and file do not seem critical either. They are divided into power camps being not much conscious of the people’s abhorrence to the arguments and counter arguments of their stalwarts. Their thoughts and behaviours may ultimately ruin their own reputation without their knowing, and further, they may lead the whole nation into chaos and confusion to our utter distress.
It is essential to understand that the path of history is topsy-turvy, the road to travel is bumpy, and the destination is distant. The world goes in different ways than anyone has anticipated. The leaders of the warring camps should sincerely bear in mind that there is no likelihood of all party members and the supporters to take side on only one camp, as they might falsely suppose. To claim to win without in-house support and whole unity is no more than a farce.
We thus need to do two things immediately: we should encourage the political actors to study intensively what socialism means in the Nepali context and enforce the prominent leaders to sacrifice their petty interests in the service of the nation and the people. It is equally important to criticise the activities that promote factionalism on the basis of power camps.

(The author is the chairman of Molung Foundation)