Thursday, 28 October, 2021

Embracing The Essence Of Democracy

Prof. Bhupa P. Dhamala

Once again we have come across an unfortunate experience of political instability which gravely influences the fate of Nepali democracy. The near two-thirds majority holding government has set in the west showing its gloomy face in the dusk. This time rather reluctant leader of Nepali Congress (NC) happened to get to the office of premiership with the verdict of venerable Supreme Court. This has triggered a number of interpretations of the incident itself and the possible consequences thereof.
Catching the sentiment of joint anti-Panchayat movement of 1990 NC won majority seats in parliament through the general election of 1991 and formed the government second time after its first inning in 1959. But no sooner did NC form the government than the intraparty imbroglio followed resulting in an unnecessary mid-term election which led to the long-time political instability. With the unified spirit and strength of CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre, communists-led government was formed. But the UML also underwent an unfortunate internal rift between its two influential leaders culminating in an accidental overthrow of its own government.
In both cases general people had euphoria in their mind that democracy would yield its fruit of freedom, equality, and social justice. In neither case, however, people’s expectations were met. Yet the stalwarts of Nepali politics still claim they are the best champions of democracy without knowing how their popularity is declining and how their power is waning. Nothing can be more unpleasant than these two events in the political life of Nepal.

Lopsided interpretations
Our politicians have the habit of being engaged in lopsided interpretations based on their own perspectives. They often manipulate their language to distort truth in their favour. This time too they are doing the most undoable. Among others there are a couple of serious issues which have gained currency today. First, it is questionable whether this is fair to penalise the whole nation by doubly dissolving the parliament for unnecessary election for only the reason of intra-party rift of the ruling party. Second, it is quite debatable whether it is moral for an influential leader of the ruling party to support the leader of opposition to topple down the government. Both issues are as worth discussing as compelling.
There is nothing that we can call absolute truth in things and happenings. All we can do is argumentation and interpretation. This is as applicable to political events as is to other social events. The arguments may be valid and genuine, invalid but genuine, valid but ingenuine, and invalid and ingenuine. The first and fourth type are few, the second and third type are many.
The Nepali political actors often indulge in the fourth type and thus they argue the unarguable. In the recent case, the erstwhile ruling party is entangled with invalid and ingenuine reasoning. While the dissident leader claims that the party chair was stupid to exclude own long time fellow travellers to join hands with a faction of JSP to retain his power, the party chair blames the dissident as stupid to join hands with NC arguing that it is unnatural to make alliance with a non-communist party. To my little understanding, both arguments are invalid and ingenuine because their interpretations are against the spirit of constitution. It is fallacious to argue that NC or JSP has no right to participate in the government on the assumption that they are not a communist party and that they criticise the decisions and actions of the NCP chair. Despite thousands of weaknesses in themselves and millions of political mistakes they have made in the past, they are nonetheless entitled to rule if the constitutional system allows.

Essence of democracy
Even more fallacious argument of the former premier is to interpret the court verdict as eccentric and unnatural. Does he mean that the independent judiciary has to pass judgment in favour of the executive head? If this were the case, why did they themselves endorse the constitution based on the principle of the separation of powers? If they think the judges can be unfair at times, can it not be by the same token that Prime Minister can be unfair as well? A decent politician must unconditionally accept the judicial verdict if they believe in the principle of the separation of powers and if they are truly democratic. What can be more shameful than to ridicule the rule of law which is regarded as the essence of democracy and this too by the leader of the largest party in parliament?
The interpretation of dissident leader is also lopsided because he interprets the recent political events against his political conviction. The rule of UML dictates that majority must be granted and that the leader who is elected by the national convention has the right to assume authority to put things in order even by enforcing the disciplinary actions against those who violate the rules. The dissident, however, is openly challenging the authority of the chair arguing that he is unfair. Unfair though the party chair may be, a senior leader should not forget the party discipline. If the chair is truly deviating from the norms, the dissident can do either of the two things – remove him from chair in the next party convention or form another party which can be truly communist. A decent leader should have the sense that if they violate the rules of party, then it creates anarchy within and results in disaster outside.
Any interpretation based on double standard is invalid and ingenune. It is thus essential that the leaders of a communist party should follow the principles of Marxism if they want to establish scientific socialism and the methods of democratic centralism if they are true disciples of Lenin. Unless they behave in the way Marxism-Leninism shows, they cannot save what they have achieved from the democratic movement for several decades, let alone establish scientific socialism.

(Professor of English, TU (retired), the author is the chairman of Molung Foundation.