Healing political hopelessness in Nepal

Published On: February 5, 2021 08:00 AM NPT By: Ambika P Joshi  | @@Ambikaaprasad

Ambika P Joshi

Ambika P Joshi

Ambika P Joshi is a PhD Scholar at Center for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Healing the mass pessimism requires political forces to adopt policies that provide sustainable solutions to everyday problems of people.

The crisis caused byrevival of the regressive movements in Nepal has further worsened due to constitutional crisis of parliamentary democracy thatevolved after Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli dissolved parliament on December 20, 2020. Now, federal democratic republic is under double threat frompro-monarchy, anti-secular and anti-federal forces on the one hand, and self-centered, anti-constitutional step of Oli, on the other. Such a state of double pressure,cooling down of which is definitely not going to reduce mass frustration, has actually diverted people’s attention from real problems of development and governance paralyzing the country for decades due to the political stunts of a few powermongers.

Pessimism and protests

The country is ridden with pessimism of frequent regime shifts reproducing nothing exciting, but the same old frustration which mobilized people around the rhetoric of revolt against bygone regimes. Each of those regimes—either led by popular leadership or ruled by Monarchs and feudal lords—gathered public support distributing fear of external insecurity added with hope of looming domestic justice and prosperity, but resulted in hopelessness failing to materialize basic expectations of fairness and transparency.

The same leakage in delivery of promises is fueling the anti-system and regressive forces to mobilize the common masses around their objective to reverse the political changes simultaneously haunting a group of individuals—progressive in thought, pro-people in orientation and well-aware of what an ideal polity should look like—with a fear arising from incapacity of existing political forces to save the country from thishopelessness. 

Thus, the dire requirement of the moment is to assure people about key political changes—republicanism, federalism and secularism—along with pointing out what actually is lacking in present state governance and how prevailing loopholes can be fixed. 

Anti-system arguments

Though people are convinced on the premise of abolition of monarchy, the message of how system of dynastic rule stands against the democratic idea of ‘every man is created equal’ and how dynasties have historically been concentrating the resources—both wealth and opportunities—to certain families close to the palace is still to be established as a popular discourse. Besides, the problems of public governance cannot be healed going some twenty years back.

Second,information on the use and abuse of resources should be delivered to the people across country by showing distribution of budget among three tiers of state power along with clarifying how provinces have been reduced to the status of ad-hoc appendage against constitutional provision. It is also essential to lay out how legislative seatscan be reduced to the minimum without compromising the principle of representativeness and procuring what a province is expected to perform.  A clear roadmap to reduce financial expenditure simultaneously enhancing efficiency of whole state administration has to be put forward and people should be made aware why the federal system of republic is required and what is at stake if attempts are made to unravel it.

Third, a mass awareness should be created over the concept of secularism—how secularism is merely the feature of state institutions with roots in Hinduism itself and, thus, how it neither twists the identity of community nor goes against its interests.Rather our constitution authorizes the state to protect religious and cultural rituals practiced from centuries along with upholding the liberal democratic idea of modern nation-state. Deepening this awareness as a collective conscience may save people from false consciousness spread by regressive forces. This, however, cannot solve thepressing problems of state governance nor legitimize the actors influencing the state.

Causes of mass frustration

Defending new structure of state model would not be adequate to uphold the public hope. People will not wait till current grievances pressurize existing political parties to auto-correct themselves or oblige people towards new mobilization aimed at fixing governance discrepancies. Thus, intellectuals-cum-activists holding confidence that the way forward to prosperity and good governance is possible only if we refrain from jumping back either to the monarchy or to unitary system of state, need to publicly explain where the leakage lies, what exactly is lacking, and what strategic measures could be adopted to bridge those gaps.

It should be clearly stated that the roots of present grievances go back to the system of feudal lords and rulers procuring power based on dynasty and transferring power through family line.

In contrast to the arguments posed by anti-system elements in the country, reasons behind public frustration grossly emanate from underperforming and extremely politicized public sector on the party lines, double standard of political representatives caused by dual and contrasting constituencies of donors versus voters, mishandled redistribution of inherited inequality, party commitments contradictory to their rogue foundation often inherited from Ranas and Shah dynasties, and public conscience developed against immediate  requirements captive to the party structure from the federal to the local. 

Questioning over abnormalities recurring over and again and debating over the possible solutions will not only give the right answer to the public questions but also hold public faith in the system.

If political parties hesitate to interrogate themselves on the issuesof party-patronized trade unionism within public bureaucracy, controversies surrounding nominations,performance and networks of members in constitutional bodies and courts, unethical networks of political leaders, top level bureaucrats and the business elites to extract pubic resources, and strategy to strengthen party organization by promoting favoritism and seizing away job opportunities from rightful candidates, they are doomed to diminish. Such a trust deficit faced by agents of key reforms is sure to question the reforms themselves if new progressive alliances fail to appear.

The dauting task of any egalitarian reform is to redistribute themaldistribution of unjustly inherited inequalities and discriminatory provisions of public goods like education and health. The state has long been hesitant to adopt strategic measures in human development to reduce class cleavages when it fails to hit directly at traditionalproperty ownership. Rather people requiring those reforms are made captive to the corrupt and abusive structure of party politics to meet their short-term requirements.

Healing the mass pessimism requires political forces to adopt policies that provide sustainable solutions to everyday problems of people. It requires egalitarian reforms both in state institutions and party structures which can hardly be expected unless elections are made cheaper and party functioning cost effective.

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