Saturday, 4 December, 2021

Pliant Cadres Fail Democracy

Mukti Rijal


The political situation in Nepal is in the state of flux. Political parties and their leaders are flexing their muscles to outwit and outlast their opponents. It looks like that there are neither friends nor foes in the game of politicking. As experienced and seen in this country, the only governing norm in the Nepali politics is one’s own crash interest and self-centred end. Political leaders who had been closer allies and comrade-in-arms until yesterday have turned principal enemies and antagonists today whereas the foes and critics have converted into friends and partners.

New equation
The new equation of forces has emerged through the process of alignment and realignment. It is very difficult to say about the stability and certitude of the present political equation as it may shift and reconfigure as time unfolds to respond to the new political signals, developments and calculations.
For the leaders and functionaries of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP), the decision of the Election Commission seems to be very crucial and important as the group that is awarded with the official recognition from legality and legitimacy point of view expects to score organisational mileage in the political contest played out following the dissolution of the House of Representatives almost one and a half months ago.
More crucial and important has been the much awaited verdict of the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court. The decision of the court will define the course of the national politics and the destiny of the political leaders as well. Needless to say, the incumbent Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli who masterminded the dissolution of parliament and his adherents are pleading for his prerogative to dissolve the House and call the snap elections to seek fresh mandate of the people whereas others, including the top leaders of the NCP like Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, Madhav Kumar Nepal and many others, are ganged against the prime minister to oppose his step of dissolution.
The court decision will therefore set the direction for the Nepali politics and create an important precedent for the days to come in the annals of parliamentary democracy of Nepal. The judicial interpretation will expound the definitiveness on some of the ambiguities and imprecision of the constitutional provision.
The interesting spectacle in the whole episode of current politics of Nepal has been theatrics of the massive processions and rallies organised for and against the dissolution of parliament throughout the country. It is reported that the some people who attended the rally and procession organised to support the dissolution did also happen to join in the processions and allies held during the following days against the move. This shows that the citizens have allowed themselves to be mobilised at the beck and call of the political parties as plaint and passive cadres without consideration to the merits and reasonableness of the case
This raises an important question on the democratic competence and awareness of the citizens in Nepal. The citizens are yet to be able to discriminate right from the wrong, rational from irrational and relevant from the irrelevant which is not a good omen for democratic development in the country. It is a fact that the democratic competence of the citizens marked by political and social citizenship can be cultivated and enhanced only when they are socialised through critical awareness acquired through democratic education. 
Indeed, uniting democratic values with the educational process for active and enlightened citizenship is not a new idea. Over the last 120 years, leading thinkers from the West like John Dewey to Marian Wright Edelman and Margaret Mead to Paulo Freire, oriental thinkers like Radhakrishnan and Mahatma Gandhi have articulated the basic hypothesis that democracy in order to be a reality and a way of life has to be introduced from the very beginning of school education. Democratic values and lessons of active and critical citizenship need to be practised both in the formal, informal and non-formal setup of learning so that citizens could distinguish from right to wrong and irrational to irrational.

Demagoguery tactics
Democracy is a way of life where problems are solved through objective and rational argument, discussion, deliberation, persuasion and transaction of views instead of dictation, coercion, violence, distrust, conflict through resort to demagoguery tactics and intimidating design. It is said that the introducing democracy in a particular country is easier but making it lasting and sustained through institutional development is difficult. For this to occur citizens not only need to imbibe into the values and notions of democracy but practice it in their day to day life by participating in the democratic politics that can consequently develop in them a sense of an enlightened and critical citizenship.
All democracies evolve, develop and flourish with an informed and engaged citizenry that can look into the issues critically and objectively and express their views in an objective and independent manner.
As democratic institution building is the major agenda of Nepal, it is necessary that the citizens are taught and enabled to participate in the process of democracy building through expansion of formal and informal avenues for democracy education.
Democracies cannot be defended in a context where voters consider themselves as subjects, blind activities and pliant cadres not as aware and critical citizens. Lastly, it would be in order to quote John Dewey, the votary of democratic education who spelt out succinctly remarking that the devotion of democracy to education is a familiar fact. “A government resting upon popular suffrage cannot be successful unless those who govern and obey their governors are educated.”

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