Always pushed aroundIt seems the political parties, both ruling and agitating, see the Nepali people as just stepping stones to power
Nepal has been going through difficult situations most of the time since her unification in the 18th century. Throughout its history, people aspiring for and in power have created discourses to serve their parochial interests. Many rulers, political leaders, pundits and activists do not seem to have a stable and pragmatic approach to dealing with political issues. The intelligentsia seems to be divided by fault lines of partisan politics. Independent opinions are either rare or ignored. A section of society is overpowered by one or the other dogma, impulse, arrogance and prejudice than by reality, pragmatism and wisdom. Oscillation in principle and stance according to their interest has become the inbuilt character of many political parties. People continue to sigh because parochial interest seems to supersede the national interest.
Against this backdrop, the Constituent Assembly promulgated the long-awaited constitution amid applause and opposition. No sooner had a large section of the Nepali society breathed a sigh of relief than a fresh agitation backed by strikes and blockades surfaced in the country. Many people’s expectations that Nepal would see a new era of peace and prosperity after the promulgation of the constitution came to nothing. A post-promulgation power-sharing imbroglio led to cracks between the ruling allies. The movement started by the Madhes-based parties led the country to an economic standoff and created circumstances for irreparable losses for many Nepalis.
The people seem to be divided between for and against the new constitution, though not in equal halves. The parties that played a leading role in promulgating the new constitution claim to have upheld the democratic process by gaining the support of 90 percent of the representatives; and on this ground, they do not seem to be willing to make any major departure from their position. They seem to be challenging the agitating parties to make amendments to the constitution not by bulldozing them through, but by putting them to a vote and getting a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
The agitating parties accuse the major parties of backtracking from the provisions in the erstwhile Interim Constitution. Not only the parties, but also the people seem to be divided along the cracks and crevasses created by their approval or disapproval of the new constitution. Consequently, the country has been returned to intrigues and collusions after a brief period of relief. No sane person can claim that this type of rift augurs well for the nation’s peace, progress and prosperity. Each lashes the other with charges which seem to border on ego, arrogance and narrow interest to the utter dissatisfaction of the people. No one has achieved anything except frustrating people’s hopes.
Stagnant political attitude
The people suffered immensely during the five-month-long economic blockade by India for no fault of their own. It added to the woes of earthquake victims reeling under lack of food, proper shelter and unfavourable weather. Economic activities not only came to a standstill, but many enterprises died landing the owners in protracted poverty. The blockade was lifted nearly four months ago, but normalcy is yet to return in the day-to-day supplies in the Capital. Many people’s bewilderment is increasing as they do not know the reason behind the agitation and the government’s reluctance to agree to the demands of the parties in the street.
It seems as if the parties on either side of the fault line see the people as just stepping stones to power. The public’s feelings and aspirations have encountered outright rejection. The role of the people, except as obedient voters, is not appreciated. Greetings, entreaties, frequent feasts and even intimidation during the election season are what the people get until the next election. Good governance is seen only on paper, and public speeches and bad governance permeates every section of society. Many leaders are blamed for irregularities and charged with being insensitive to the people’s plight. It looks both sides have ignored the people’s presence in the country and their role to settle the problems. It is depressing that voters are just taken for granted.
Does this mean that Nepal has plunged into a state where hopes for political consensus and stability have been exhausted? Not many people are willing to admit this. First of all, the political leaders should trust and tell the truth to the people. Everyone should realise that it is next to impossible to nurture a state without the people’s active role. Second, a platform should be created without undermining the law and order situation where political parties, civil society, academia and representative citizens can share each other’s opinions and points of view regarding the present political impasse. Third, let the people know everyone’s position and the reasons behind it. Only such a democratic way can end the current political stalemate and put the Constitution into proper practice.
True, honest and sincere
The politics of denial, rejection, intolerance and arrogance are impediments to every genuine and democratic effort to put an end to the political impasse and address the grievances. A majority of the people will rally behind those who are true, honest and sincere. Enough of the politics of conspiracy, double standard, parochialism and lip service to the people’s cause; it is high time for a new beginning. Launch a national debate and come up with a solution with the nation at the centre. Reason should precede sentimental ideas. This will prepare a ground where anything that is harmful to the national interest will be defeated.
As long as the stagnant political attitude continues to be glorified, the country will suffer from unprecedented tussles and attrition. It is too late to herald a political culture in the country based on honesty, justice and wisdom. Obsolete ideas always lead to problems instead of solutions. Rigidity in thinking may quite often jeopardise amicable solutions to problems. There does not appear to be any alternative to magnanimity and accommodation.
Kumar is a professor of Geography at Mahendra Multiple Campus, Dang