Friday, 3 December, 2021

Diagnosing Nepal’s Postmodern Politics

Diagnosing Nepal’s Postmodern Politics

Liladhar Upadhyaya

The 1951 democratic movement ushered Nepal into an era of freedom and opening-up but it was a bumpy journey of democracy and modernisation, as Nepali politics has been unstable and turbulent since then. The country witnessed regime changes several times but they were not sustainable. Neither did the political actors live up to their promises. The frequent upheavals dented the political centres, with the centrifugal forces having their field day. Nepal’s erratic postmodern politics can be best described with the idea of ‘deconstruction’ popularised by French philosopher Jacques Derrida.
Influenced by a Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, deconstructionists argue that creating binary oppositions to understand the meaning of text or entire phenomena and metaphysics gives no results, but extends the meaning endlessly. For example, it compares sun with moon, day with night, and male with female to draw an insight for understanding the text. But this discourse does not give solution, rather seeks endless images to understand the given subject. This idea made contribution to generating theory of postmodernism, affecting multiple areas with incompatible interpretations.

Waning centre
The discourse of politics, nationally and globally, reflects this situation as if understanding politics and doing politics are different. Moreover, understanding reality is a myth or knowing politics is beyond the capacity of political actors themselves because it is affected by multiple factors. Searching for centre of politics and running the politics from that centre is no more applicable nowadays. The politics of the present time is run by multiple centres. Postmodernists try to break the hierarchy and want to enjoy without centres.
The discourse of binary oppositions is applicable in politics and geopolitics as they create binary oppositions like East versus West, centralist versus federalist, nationalist versus anti-nationalist, authoritarian versus democratic, royalist versus republican, conservative versus liberal, and communist versus democrats in the recent context of Nepal. In fact, this is an ideological tool used to brainwash people so that the politicians meet their hidden interest and stick to power in the names of nationalism, progressivism and democracy.
Since the Rana regime, the Nepali politics had been driven by brutal gun power along with betrayal, tactics and mischief which was also found in the stories of great Hindu epics Mahabharata and Ramayana. The present context is different and politicians use various discourses, slogans and rhetoric. They talk of democracy against monarchy, republican set up against constitutional monarchy, federal structure of governing nation against the unitary system. In terms of geopolitics, they pronounce Chinese support against the Indian hegemony, and put the US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) against Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Now, the issue of multi-nation state and multi-state nation has influenced the political discourse in a fashion of deconstruction theory. These are the kinds of gambits being played by politicians, knowingly and unknowingly, for many decades. But the common people do not bother about understanding these jargons. Publicity stunt is widely used when a politician fails to address the aspirations of the people. Incompetent politicians do nothing for public, but make big talks to push the nation and its people into another cycle of conflict, disorder and mismanagement.
Politicians run after cheap popularity but the people want change and development as embodied in system. They want employment and elimination of hunger and poverty, but politicians want to run national and global politics in their name. Present politics is the byproduct of postmodernist theory which is run by multiple centres, slogans of many cycles and agendas set on the basis of binary opposition.
Sometimes, changes and progress happen automatically, and clever leaders try to take the credit of them. In fact, politicians survive with the means of gimmicks and false promises and their moves are unpredictable as they are driven by various power centres such as business tycoons instead of standing on their own feet. Leaders hanker after power and post, but people expect liberation from them. Getting liberation from politicians is an illusion. So, understanding the meaning of politics and attitudes of politicians appears to be a myth-creating venture rather than going for reality check.
Before the introduction of the multiparty system, the monarch was in the centre. After the 1990 movement, constitutional monarch was in the centre because stakeholders and people used to turn their eyes to constitutional monarch thinking that every problem could be solved by it. Now, during the republican era multiple power centres are active.

Media power
Media is a power which is playing a watchdog role in defence of the democratic system. There are multiple power centres such as the Offices of President, the Prime Minister, and the opposition parties. Similarly, the Speaker, which is also a neutral post, is holding interactions with the stakeholders, is trying to create another centre. So is the case for judiciary. Similarly, geopolitics is a centre which exercises coercive and persuasive powers overtly and covertly.
As there are multiple centres in politics, every centre tries to capture power to suit their petty interest. Having multiple centres means no centre at all. Politics is always in a state of flux. So is the case during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Coping with COVID-19 has become an issue beyond the capacity of underdeveloped countries like Nepal.
Interdependence has become a trend of globalised world. No country is self-sufficient to solve every problem. However, much dependency may put nation's sovereignty at stake. So, stakeholders, especially the politicians, should think of making the nation self-reliance as much as possible. Shifting agendas time and again without giving required time for a successful experiment of a system is quite irrational as this does not give respite to people. Let's commit to protect the hard-earned federal democratic republican set up and wait until it yields positive results to the public.

(Upadhyaya is associate editor of TRN.