Think long and hardRSP leaders preparing the party’s political document should resist being swayed by populist rhetoric.
As the Rastriya Swatantra Party marks its first anniversary on June 22, its leaders are busy formulating the party’s political document. The way the party has captured public imagination by emerging as the fourth-largest force in the House of Representatives within a year of its formation, the RSP’s every decision and activity is being closely followed. The process of preparing the key document has also ignited a debate in and outside the party. The party’s initiative to come up with its guiding principles is a welcome move as no political organisation can sustain for long without a clear ideological underpinning. Its electoral successes so far are based primarily on the anti-incumbency factor that the RSP chief Rabi Lamichhane was astute enough to capitalise on. Now is the time to add strength and character to the party organisation.
The RSP leaders who are involved in the task of preparing the political document should think in terms of decades (if not centuries) and resist being swayed by populist rhetoric. They must refrain from coming up with unrealistic and provocative agendas and policies that jeopardise Nepal's hard-earned political gains. Nearly eight decades of history of Nepali political parties can be a strong guide. Most of the old political forces sold big dreams in their policy papers but failed to deliver on them when they reached power—which is part of the reason for growing public frustration with traditional parties.
For instance, all communist parties in Nepal at one time or other promised jotneko jamin and potneko ghar (‘Lands for tillers and houses for housekeepers’). But they failed to come up with an effective land reform programme even when they repeatedly led the government. The Nepali Congress repeatedly invoked BP Koirala’s ideal of democratic socialism even as it readily embraced free-market liberalism. Madhesh-based parties similarly sold the impossible dream of one-Madhes-one-province comprising the entire southern belt of Nepal. It wasn’t meant to be.
A party’s foot-soldiers who are indoctrinated on revolutionary rhetoric and unachievable promises soon get frustrated. Given the RSP’s recent activities and Lamichhane's orientation, we can't rule out the possibility of the RSP being swayed by populist and provocative ideas. But if Nepal needs something badly right now, it is political stability and good governance, which in turn can be used to create jobs and lift people’s living standards. Some ideas included in the party’s draft document, however, intend to shake up the very foundations of the new constitution. For instance, the party has proposed a directly elected executive prime minister. In provinces, it is for scrapping the position of provincial heads and dissolution of provincial assemblies. It wants directly-elected governors as heads of the provinces and for provincial councils to govern the provinces. At the same time, it has also tried to introduce some participatory and progressive ideas such as a primary election to choose candidates for state positions.
Some of these ideas may be merit-worthy. But the RSP should choose wisely. The risk is that in trying to radically reorient the country’s post-2006 political and constitutional course, the whole democratic setup may meet with an accident. Hopefully, those involved in finalising the party document will be guided more by reason than emotions and put national interest before their own.