Saturday, 24 October, 2020

Eroding Political Values

Mukti Rijal


At a time when the nation is facing the scourge of accelerated spread of corona virus across the country, political leaders seem not serious enough to make joint cause to deal with it. Moreover, landslides and lightning strikes have claimed life and property in the country. But the party leaders seem not bothered to show sensitivity to these problems. It seems that the hard won stability and continuity of the government is under threat. This is particularly due to oft-repeated and recurring squabbling among the key political leaders of the ruling party itself. The leaders tend to make the mountain out of mole hill and insinuate each other on minor issues. Their interest and selfish stakes do always come uppermost. Their authority and status is dearest to them and they are interested to see that their interests is always promoted and protected at any costs.
Tug of war
The infighting and tug of war among the leaders of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) reflects the fragility of the party institutions in Nepal where values and norms are subordinate and secondary to the self-motivated tendencies of political leaders. In a democratic system government that has been mandated to govern should be allowed to function uninterruptedly. The government can be pulled down or outvoted only when it loses the majority in the parliament that has elected it. The party organisation can scrutinise and review its performance but it should neither threaten to pull it down nor dismiss it from outside. But the present tussle, if allowed to continue, it will lead the party unity and country’s governance to the brink of disaster
In this context, institutional diagnosis of the political parties in Nepal will be in order. Firstly, the problems of the Nepali political parties have been that they are not institutionalised and thus personality driven. They are functionally inefficient and ineffective. In fact, the parties cannot afford to be efficient and effective because they have to engage in intra-factional dissent management all the time. The parties have to cater to and address self-centric aspirations and ambitions of the party leaders and functionaries. Secondly, the shape of political parties is so cumbersome and complex that they cannot move and take decisions in an efficient and effective way. As a result, parties fail to rise to the occasion promptly and respond to the needs and challenges of the evolving context.
Thirdly, the ideals, values and norms that used to dictate and guide the parties when they had been fighting the authoritarian polity in the past do no more exist. The ideological principles and standards have almost gone waning during these days. Especially the communist parties that are known for hair-splitting debates and polemics seem not very lively and active in discussing issues and principle. During the contemporary times the politics of factionalism, unprincipled ties and alliances spearheaded by the interest and selfish motivation of key leaders has overshadowed the subjects of principles.
Moreover, the politics of informal settlement among leaders for serving one’s own interests has also become the established norm of the political organisations. The idea of convergence is marked by the growing intermarriage and connivance to pursue crass political interests. As a result, the ideological pretensions of differences and antagonism has been waned and almost come to naught. It needs to be mentioned that intra-party antagonism and contradictions among the communist groups in the past had been very explicit and articulate. But today the pragmatic lure of power, consumerism and avarice has overwhelmed the political leaders. In fact, it was due to avowedly pragmatic consideration of the evolving political context in Nepal that the erstwhile CPN- Maoist Centre, led by Prachanda had merged into the then CPN- UML to form the current NCP more than two years ago.
Similarly, moderate Nepali Congress party has also compromised on its principles and values to pursue short-term gains and interests. It has cohabited time and again with right and left parties and political groups for gaining the seat of power that in no way is compatible and friendly to its long-held views and perspectives. With the degeneration of politics and erosion of the value-based norms and principles, the leaders have lost their vision and turned, instead as deft managers, tactical players and game manipulator. The routine task of the leaders has boiled down into juggling with the day to day affairs of the party and keeps one's own position safe and secure. The leaders squander their valuable time and resources to manage dissidence within the party.

Party unity
The current infighting among the top leaders of the ruling communist party can be attributed to the erosion of political values and principles. The middle ranking leaders and party functionaries are forced to build pressure upon the top party leaders not to destroy their basic fabric of the party unity. They are bound to bear pressure upon the leaders because of the fact that the growing disunity and discord among the leaders will foredoom the future of the party and government. Political analysts maintain that the ongoing feuds among the leaders are the result of their entrenched greed and lust for power. In order to curb it, politics should be made innovative and transformative enough to nurture ideas and vision and parties need to be institutionalised so that leaders could shun petty interests to serve the long term interest of the nation.

(Rijal, PhD, contributes regularly to TRN and writes on contemporary political, economic and governance issues. 

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