Polities in Nepal thawed and metamorphosed at certain intervals. In the process, the country changed democratic contours several times along with delineation of their purposes at least as the constitutional stipulations. Political parties that consider power as meaning of politics did cause the alterations. However, neighborly geopolitical realities and the role of the distantly located power centers capable of shaping politico-economic world order equally interplayed for the changes.
Political experience has it that stakeholders have failed every now and then to consolidate a politico-administrative authority that can irreversibly promote democratic practice. Even the achievements hyped as epochal breakthroughs were undone several times either stalling or resulting in the loss of democratic gains. The situations, in the past, drifted the country toward chaos, if not to the brink of state failure for some outsiders.
Reclaimed from prolonged armed conflict and the subsequent shaky political transition to peace, the country has adopted democratic republicanism and has successfully held three levels of elections thereafter. As a result, a powerful government, arithmetically and unprecedentedly as well, is in place. To the public, no government hitherto formed was as powerful and efficient as the current one is. Popular views converge that union of the communist parties of the past following the elections has added to the strength to safeguard and strengthen the constitutional and federal arrangements. The onus of unfurling economic dialogue and achievements leaving the political one behind should be shouldered by this government.
Paradoxically however, current union of political entities and the subsequent formation of government, based on the incumbent government’s initial modus operandi and budgeted programs, is feared to gradually tighten administrative screws against democratic processes and institutions. The foundation for this possibility, however, was strategically created specifically following the promulgation of constitution. Undue politicization of police institution, explicit political influence on judiciary, ‘revolutionary’ and discretionary move to weaken organized service-providers being guided more by political interest to dissolve the organizations and committees, imbalanced and centralized allocation of budget, blanket disregard to human rights based approach to governance and civil voices, reluctance to acknowledge inclusion that are all against the spirit of current polity. Moreover, the acts are catalytic to expand the breeding ground for repressive political establishment that reverses the current polity.
Moreover, cynics recall the past record of the current prime minister vis-à-vis perception of democracy. His distaste and disbelief against liberal democracy and republicanism expressed before mass movement for republicanism, and also the expressions he had against inclusion and regional equality had clearly indicated at his discomforts with the secular and federal set up. His acts and expressions, especially during post-constitution-promulgation and pre-election periods, were believed to have intended to underplay the core spirit of the constitution especially inclusion, liberalism, human rights and political pluralism. He, at that time, sounded like he was a supporter of an attempt to diverting the public sentiments toward a false orientation that either the emergence of a Panchayat-era totalitarian deified figure could cement the national unity or tread the fast track of development of the nation or that consolidation of an authoritarian communist polity could have the capacity toward this end.
The calls especially the latter swayed citizenry amid heightened political fluidity that only a new political juggernaut could knit up the disoriented regional, ethnic and other interest groups for the national order. Communist coalition was forged for the election purpose. Such a coalition was perceived by the ordinary citizens as their hope whereas the intricacies and the power-centric shrewdness of the stakeholders of the alliance were not fathomable for them.
It has not been that long since we constitutionally embarked on federal mode of state operation, hence it is not unnatural that we could face attempts to create disillusionment over the liberal system. It is more so if national consciousness and consensus on such the system is in the making or toward reversal. The current constitution that defines the country as federal democratic republic with policies and some stipulations toward socialist orientation was an agreement between leftist and the centrist political groups. The communist coalition basically formed for election purpose and the current union, one of the constituents of which is a group that took sledgehammer to democracy in the past heralding a war for the establishment of communism, is all set to shepherd the democratic republican agendas with almost no stake of other political stakeholders in the parliament and the government. This poses a million dollar question: can unprecedentedly elected majoritarian communist government that inherits illiberal DNA be the promoter of current political arrangement of the country?
Political stasis regulated by periodic elections is precondition for democratic evolution. However, what should be moving is economy and society. There have been many examples that economic growths lead toward democracy but ours is the case whereby acting to live up with the expectation of faster economic growth under nascent federal democracy is a national need. How the current government succeeds depends on how prudently it can deliver economic growth under democratic processes and mold.
Until couple of decades ago, politics guided by the ideal philosophies of left and right divisions was mis/used for rabble-rousing as politicians at that time did not have access to the meager national coffer. In the recent years, politics has turned out to be a pursuit of direct financial gains for all political parties and groups. It is based on the gains amassed out of state machineries, corporate spheres and even from civil society activism that they can ensure more votes in the polls. The elections we had recently were not exception in this regard. Striving to accumulate money by hook or by crook for running elections and to act toward recovering the expenditure after getting elected, if for the next election has been a norm among politicians now. This tendency is unlikely to holistically promote economy. Rather, a chunk of politicians and the cadres around them are likely to turn out to be nouveau riche in short span of time.
Towering among the public as a magnificent politician by painting an unsubstantiated rosy future of a country, forgetting even the central promises made during election campaigns and getting impugned by them as an outright liar was a practice during the last 28 years that saw 26 governments. The sitting prime minister, hopefully, will not follow suit: the question again is – whether or not the current PM and his entire team are interested to be an exception in this regard. Following suit is to tread the path already covered by the Nepali Congress. The path was known for messy management, internal rivalry among leaders, blame that kings-era industrial bases were torpedoed due to the Congress adopted policies and governance, total dependence on southern neighbor, failure to devise state machinery in line with the emerging public interests and contemporary needs, lack of clear take on the foreign policy, among others. Unfair practices sidelined a number of persons with potentials despite their caliber and proactive engagement ultimately making them turn passive or compelling to wade waist-deep into the morass corrupt leaders had created. There had been a yawning divide between public expectation and the party’s modus operandi. For them nationalism, democracy and socialism was a political maxim however there had never been an attempt toward translating the philosophy into everyday life of the public. Rather, it kept on barking up the wrong tree that anti-communist public appeal could sustain their perennial existence.
Now NC is not and will not be in power for at least some years unless a political miracle occurs. However, current government has a big mountain before them. Corruption, managerial inefficiencies, over-politicization of the state machinery, unprecedented erosion of public academic institutions including leading universities of the country, lucrative trade of health and education concerns, and also the promises the parties in government made in elections have been teasing the government. Addressing them well will only justify the landslide electoral victory and the grandiose call for nationalism and economic achievements. If undelivered, the vicious cycle will continue.
The writer works for civil society movement and the views expressed in this article are his own so do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any organization/s he works for or is affiliated to.