Monday, 6 December, 2021

Particracy Undermines Democracy

Particracy Undermines Democracy

Ritu Raj Subedi

Nepali politics is back to the drawing board. It is set to be marred by the vicious game of making or breaking the government, a nauseating development that Nepali people used to abhor in the past. The malfunction of parliamentary democracy practiced since 1990 threw the country into chronic instability. The constant failures of political parties and their actors eventually triggered the systemic crisis. The federal democratic republic is also bound to suffer similar setbacks, with the finger pointed to the political players’ parochial attitude and approach to the solution of the current impasse. Now there is no longer monarchy which could be made an easy scapegoat for the lacklustre performance of the successive governments. With the abolition of unitary system under the kingship, there is no bogeyman the parties can invoke to hide their own inability to steer the republican order adopted through the landmark decision of the Constituent Assembly (CA) in 2008.

Spiritless drama
The citizens are now tediously watching the spiritless political drama. Resurrection of erstwhile CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre has turned the politics into numerical play as no party commands majority in the federal parliament to run the government. UML chair KP Sharma Oli-led government is now on a shaky ground with the dissolution of the Communist Party of Nepal (NCP). Even if the Maoist Centre has not withdrawn its support to the government, the PM has the challenge to win the vote of confidence in the federal parliament on the political and moral grounds. However, the power equation in the House of Representatives (HoR) gives Oli an ace up his sleeve for running the government. The Maoist Centre that had a bitter divorce with the UML is vociferously calling for unseating Oli from power at all cost. The Nepali Congress (NC) and Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP) are seemingly not much enthused over the prospect of formation of a new government.
However, NC president Sher Bahadur Deuba convened a three-party meeting at his residence on Friday to craft a roadmap of the new government. Those who want to knock Oli off his perch are happy that Deuba has finally moved the process for the formation of the new government. This was the first time that the three parties kicked off formal talks on instituting the new administration. The NC proposed with the Maoist Centre and JSP to extend their support to form the new government under its leadership. However, the meeting remained inconclusive as the JSP, the fourth largest party, sought time to discuss the proposal in the party. The three parties command 142 seats in the 275-member HoR, which is sufficient to form the new coalition.
It is widely believed that Deuba just went through the motions to satisfy the disgruntled faction within his party as well as the Maoist Centre. Some days ago, the NC had decided to form the new government under its leadership after Ram Chandra Paudel-led faction pressed Deuba to take a lead in removing the Oli government. Paudel has been taunting Deuba for missing a good opportunity to lead the new government. Moreover, Deuba’s opponent accused him of hobnobbing with Oli and sharing spoils of the state. In order to clear such allegation, Deuba decided to call the meeting of the three parties. The Maoist Centre has accepted the NC proposal and agreed to pull out its support to the government the day the JSP decides to form a three-party alliance against Oli, according to the media reports.
Deuba’s belated move might have delighted Maoist Centre chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda more than anybody else. He has been restless since the legal split of NCP through the Supreme Court verdict. As the leader of third largest party, Prachanda is struggling to put himself at the centre of politics. Unfortunately, it is the JSP, not the Maoist Centre, which holds the key of the power play. Prachanda has to rely on the NC and JSP to carve the future course of the country’s fragile politics.
Deuba is batting for early elections as the situation appears favourable for his party because the UML has been emotionally and structurally divided. Oli and Nepal factions are unlikely to turn swords into ploughshares any time soon as PM Oli has been pushing Nepal and his colleagues to the wall with a series of disciplinary actions against them. Nepal and Co have to either capitulate to Oli or fight tooth and nail to save their political destiny within the party. They are now engaged in forming parallel committees from the centre to the grassroots, which has shaken the UML’s unity to the core. This is a reason why Deuba wants to strike while the iron is hot.
It is no secret that NC president Deuba and JSP chair Mahanta Thakur have shown their Machiavellian character to fulfil their partisan goals. Deuba wants to see the UML torn to shreds so that he could hit the political jackpot in the upcoming party convention and general elections. On the other hand, Thakur has tried to exploit the current political crisis to meet some of his controversial demands. He has pressed the ruling UML, NC and Maoist Centre to release jailed lawmaker Resham Chaudhary, withdraw 208 cases against its leaders and cadres, and amend the constitution, among others, in return for extending its support to form the government. It is interesting to note that all these parties are ready to fulfil JSP’s demands.

Necessary evil
It appears that the JSP has become a ‘necessary evil’ for all three forces to bolster their position in the national politics but this can risk turning democracy into the worst form of ‘particracy’ in which common concerns of citizens and spirit of constitution are grossly undermined at the expense of omnipresent partisan interest. The constitutionalism, rule of law, social justice and people-centric policies form the cornerstone of democracy. If these cardinal values of democracy take a backseat, politics become a ruthless game played merely to satisfy the base instincts of politicians and parties.

(Deputy Executive Editor of The Rising Nepal, Subedi writes regularly on politics, foreign affairs and other contemporary issues.