Monday, 6 December, 2021

Restoration Of Faith In Politics

Nyas Yadav


The intra-party dispute within the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has risen to excruciating levels. This has now started threatening the government’s stability. The sequence of events has created a sense of alienation and disenchantment amongst the public. Given the contemporary political history and the nature of politics in Nepal, the public has, at large, become rather disoriented and cynical towards the sacrosanct institutions of our political system. Therefore to put things into perspective, let us try and understand the root cause for the deterioration of polity and the decline of public faith in politics and politicians in the country. 
The country has witnessed a great deal of instability over the past two decades, first with the Royal family massacre, then the political turmoil followed by the civil war, and later the transition from the constitutional monarchy to democracy, and the struggle to form the new constitution. Additionally, the game of musical chairs that was played with the position of the Prime Minister from 2008-2018, wherein a whopping number of 11 Prime Ministers were sworn in, has further contributed to acute instability and policy paralysis. One cannot blame the people for their dissent and distrust towards the system given past events.

Erosion of faith
Political parties, parliament, and government are the basic elements of democracy, and faith in these institutions legitimises the political ecosystem in a country. Political parties act as a bridge between the public and government. Ideally, they must mirror the needs, hopes, and aspirations of the people but unfortunately they have miserably failed to do so. 
The very elected representatives that are sent to the parliament to voice the needs of the public are now compromised. Politics has ceased to become a special purpose vehicle to access power and positions at any cost. It no longer works as an instrument for public welfare nor does it help in the evolution of society. Morals, principles and ideologies have been replaced by opportunism and an attitude of unscrupulousness. The desire for political gain, influence, and affluence has corrupted the very embodiment of public service. 
The public at large seems to have a rather pessimistic view of the fundamental political institutions and the agents of our democratic system. Because of the first-hand experiences with our leaders and their compulsive adherence to insincerity and unethical practices, people hold the profession in disrepute to an extent where the word ‘politician’ symbolises an antagonist and triggers negative emotions. An erosion of confidence in the major institutions of the society, especially those of representative democracy, is a much deeper rooted problem than it appears which if not managed timely, may very well prove to be a serious threat to our democracy.
 Perception significantly matters in politics and apart from the social environment, the media plays a big role in building perceptions. Television, press, the internet, and radio are the most common sources of political information. The audience in general does not critically evaluate the information and does not see beyond immediate political coverage. Unfortunately, only a handful of people have a grasp on the nuances of the political process. 
Therefore, it is the duty of mainstream media to thoroughly scrutinise political decisions and be sceptical about policymakers, question the righteousness and appropriateness of their decisions, act as whistle-blowers if they detect any undemocratic or unethical practices, and always work in line with the common interest of the public. Media is considered to be the fourth pillar of democracy, hence it should maintain professionalism and perform due diligence while reporting. It should also refrain from unethical practices and should abstain from negative reporting and spreading rampant cynicism.
If we look at the broader view with a bit of optimism, not everything seems dismal. The system we now so vehemently criticise, is the one that struggled to give us democracy, the greatest virtue for mankind. It gave us a constitution that grants us dignity, gender equality, human rights, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, free press, and so on. Today, a common man or a woman with no political lineage can aspire to be in the highest office of the land. These entitlements are not common around the world and we certainly not take our good fortune for granted.

Reflection of society
A political system is merely a reflection of the society. Therefore, any assessment should be made in light of the overall system which appears to be failing, and not just in reference to the government or politicians. There are flaws within the entire system that need to be addressed. However, on political front, a significant problem seems to be limited choices we are given in terms of being represented by political parties. In electoral politics, winnability takes precedence over calibre and consequently people with high morals, credibility, and qualifications, unfortunately get filtered out. Currently, the average literary rate of the cabinet is lesser than that of any top bureaucratic organisation. It is only natural to have faltering confidence in the system, especially when there is a perception of being governed by inferiors. Therefore, political parties need to introspect and raise the bar for their representatives. They must introduce people with expertise and qualifications and above all they must prioritise morality and credibility.
The political ethos of Nepal needs to resurrect and recapture the spirit of idealism and reinstate a commitment to decency, virtuousness and morality. Politics provides a great platform to serve and help people, and it must be restored to its original purpose of being an instrument to social change and serving humanity. Ultimately, as Mahatma Gandhi said, "Politics should be rooted to fundamental human values above everything else."

(Yadav is a chartered accountant.