Monday, 6 December, 2021

The Vice Of Factionalism

Bhupa P. Dhamala

The historically most important opportunity that Nepali people had offered to a single party with nearly two-third majority seats in parliament has now utterly been abused through malpractice of democracy. A single party’s majority government has turned into fragile one leading to vicious political instability to the uncertain far future. The repercussions are yet unpredictable.
Several factors have led to this unfortunate circumstance: supremacy of law has remained only in the letters of law; good governance has been a matter of mere rhetoric; development processes have lagged far behind. The root cause of all these situations is factionalism within the political parties both in the ruling party as well as oppositions.

Divergent views
Factionalism is a situation that allows the formation of a group with slightly different views within a larger group. The factionalism that spontaneously arises when different members in a group express their independent views for a genuine cause can be acceptable to some extent. But if a particular leader formulates a policy in their self-interest and persuades or even compels the other members to follow their path by hook or crook, then that factionalism is a vice which leads to the ultimate disaster in the whole group. The latter, not the former, is exactly happening in the politics of Nepal. At present, political cadres have been divided into power camps created and led by respective leaders by using ideological apparatuses and very often coercive forces.
Factionalism within the party has led to the circumstances for pushing the leaders on the road. Among others, three major events of factionalism in Nepali history have caused political instability. Immediately after the dawn of democracy, factionalism appeared in Nepali Congress party which supposedly paved ways for King Mahendra’s royal takeover. Slightly after the restoration of democracy, factionalism raised its head again within the Nepali Congress which eventually led to the hung parliament and unstable government. In both cases, the imbroglio was not for genuine political cause but for gaining power. Then after the establishment of republicanism, CPN-UML and CPN Maoist Centre had been united allegedly to forge a larger unity but in no time they have been disjointed not only legally but also politically. Now it looks like that their unity was not based on the democratic values and principles but was founded on the interests of gaining more seats in parliament with more popular votes.
Now leaders of the ruling party are on the road. The political actors who are supposed to be in parliament engaged in discussion on how national interest can be fulfilled, how sustainable development goals can be achieved, how people’s needs can be catered, and how their quality of life can be improved, are on the contrary, blatantly criticising each other in the street for no obvious purpose. They are shouting with loud cacophony but are turning deaf years to the people’s voices and failing to understand people’s aspirations.
It is quite natural that different political groups have different voices but multi-vocalism for no obvious reason is rather eccentric. Now discordant voices are surfaced in rank and file of the ruling party. Original causes for political change have been misinterpreted for sordid gains of power. Established norms and values have disappeared. Party discipline has been violated. Leaders of one camp are publicly criticising even the personal characteristic traits of the leaders of another camp. They tend to see things from their own perspectives. They don’t know how others see them. No one thinks critically. No one behaves modestly. Language of politics has turned into the language of abuse and public libel.
It can be well argued that the minority groups have created interest driven factions because they are in minority due to the weaknesses of their views, opinions, and actions. But this is by no means absolutely true. Even the apparent majority groups can sometimes form factions to serve their personal interests. They try to prove that the decisions made by majority can never be wrong by citing the provisions that majority must be granted. But at the deeper level they may have forged majority by using the coercive forces such as threat, extortion, and intimidation. They are capable of creating false consciousness that what they say is true because they are in majority.
At this juncture, neither side seems to admit their weaknesses. No matter how hard prominent political leaders of the ruling party in Nepal are trying to justify their actions, they do not seem to succeed at all. We can thus infer that factionalism in terms of power camps may ultimately tear the party and ruin the state.

Ray of hope
However, there is still a small ray of hope. Independent views and opinions should be respected but the factions driven by personal interests must be ruthlessly suppressed no matter whether they are from minority or majority power camps. The second or third generation leaders can take the lead to this initiative. They should not belong to any power camps but must rely on their own consciences and judgments. The junior leaders with juvenile spirit have more creative potential than the tiring senior leaders who once had that vigor. Leaders are made not born.

(Dhamala is a retired Professor of English at Tribhuvan University.