Monday, 24 January, 2022

Politics Of Material Advantage

Prof. Bhupa P. Dhamala

Nepal offers immense possibilities of change, both physical and cultural. But this possibility has gone awry. The key reason for this is the mishandling of politics. It will not be blasphemous to say contemporary Nepali politics is characterised by power-sharing for material gain rather than the welfare of the state and its people. There is no ample evidence to justify the claim that our leaders fairly decide and act. If it continues to go as it is going today, then the foundation of democracy inevitably weakens, which ultimately ruins the state. It looks like they have not foreseen this sinister outcome of their own unscrupulous actions because they are blinded by the benefit here and now.

Myopic vision
The initial apex leaders of Nepali Congress and Nepal Communist Party (NCP) were visionary. They had a dream of making this country a paradise. Following the leaders’ dream, many freedom fighters sacrificed their invaluable life. But their dreams have been betrayed. This is chiefly due to the myopic vision of contemporary politicians. Whereas the then leaders were committed to altering the country, keeping their life at stake, the leaders of today are, on the contrary, driven by the motives for sordid gains of political power and wealth. It can be beneficial to them for a short time, but their gains are transitory and fleeting. Ultimately, they are entangled in the vicious circle of corruption and cultural degradation. Their short-sightedness leads them to fall into the quagmire of chaos and collapse.

Myopic vision is not only the weakness of political leaders. Even the bureaucrats and development workers are infected with this vice. Bureaucrats are decision-makers whose decisions can make a significant change either for the better or the opposite of it. If they are visionary, then they can make decisions that have positive impacts. If they are not, then their decisions have repercussions that can cause irreparable loss. Likewise, development workers implement the decisions made by the decision-makers. Even if the decision-makers have made good decisions, the development workers may misinterpret them and do things at their will, still worsening the situation.

There are numerous examples of this tendency in our country. One of the most common examples is that political leaders create a faction to organise what they call a group of like-minded leaders and cadres who denounce the top-ranking leaders of the same party, not knowing how harmful the consequences might be. The case of recent party splits of CPN- UML and Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP) illustrates this point. If they had a broad vision, they would not make such a blunder as to break the party into insignificant groups.

Another example can be found in the appointment of executive officials. Contrary to the popular assumption that a person should be fit for the job, our practice has unfortunately been such that a job is created to suit the person to be appointed. While so doing, even the rules and regulations are violated to fulfill the personal interests of material gain.

The worst example can be found in the appointment of university employees. In developed countries, universities are regarded as the places for learning, the institutions established for the pursuit of knowledge and scholarship, the physical and social labs to be perennially engaged in research and investigation. But in our country, universities have turned into the playground of politicians, and unfortunately, our myopic politicians are playing foul play. Innocent students have been used as instruments of political parties to shout slogans for them and against their opponents. Eventually, they become mediocre in knowledge and skills even as they are graduated at the end of the term.

Not simply students, even the teachers as well as non-teaching staff have been engaged in partisan politics reflecting their partisan outlook in university affairs. Apex executive officials are appointed not on the academic basis of competence and performance but on the quota basis of power-sharing of political parties and/or trade unions. More surprisingly, even the best academicians are compelled to be members of political parties and ask for the grace of party leaders if they want to be appointed for executive positions. Further surprisingly, teachers are appointed not on a merit basis but on the basis of how many years they have spent on part-time or contract service. Part-time and/or contract teachers are also appointed on a quota basis of political power-sharing ignoring the competence of candidates.

Satisfying though it seems momentarily to many, doing things that are undoable legally, morally, and institutionally can have disastrous results. This tendency frustrates the meritorious people, encourages brain drain, institutionalises mediocrity, promotes dependency on others, allows capital flight, causes corruption, accelerates cultural degradation, and ultimately leads to state failure. Nothing can stop these unfortunate results if we do not take the mishandling of politics seriously before it is too late.

Many countries have prospered in a short time because they are guided by the principles of fair politics. Once the lawmakers make rules and regulations, they agree to honestly abide by them. Here in our country, however, rules are often made to facilitate the executives to act for gain. The rules are sometimes violated if they are unfavorable to the executives. Unfortunately, these activities are guided by the motives of personal benefit or the benefit for the parties involved. When politics misgoverns all institutional activities for personal gain, we can expect nothing more than doom. So, let us instantly stop the politics of power-sharing for benefit.

(The author is the chairman of Molung Foundation.