Loktantrik leadershipLeaders must learn to engage in self-criticism instead of blaming their counterparts
It’s true that we have set a record in changing prime ministers and ministers very frequently. Nepali politics has many bitter, and few better, experiences. The Nepali people are looking forward to good governance with a superior form of loktantrik leadership. We want good governance and not just a mere government. It must be a democratic, republican and sovereign government.
Piers M Blaikie, John Cameron and David Seddon wrote in their famous work Nepal in Crisis: Growth and Stagnation at the Periphery which was published in 1980, “The heavy dependence of Nepal on aid inevitably involves it in international politics, while its physical location between India and China, given their roles in world politics, ensures that pressure from outside, and often expressed through aid are even greater than in the case of most underdeveloped countries in receipt of large amounts of foreign aid.”
We will always have the limitations of a landlocked country. Neither can we change our neighbours. Further, Nepal should not consider herself, any more, a yam between two boulders. We are rather a yam between two fertile blocks. Equal friendship and equal distance with India and China should always be the driving principles of Nepali politics. We can’t compromise our geographical continuity, sentiments of nationality, need for a common defence and a sovereign and independent identity.
Nepal is a democratic republic. Democracy is not only a form of government; it is also a way of life. The people need welfare. The government should fulfil the needs, requirements and desires of the people. But the reality is different. Governance is deteriorating, development is slowing down and people are trapped in one crisis after another. Instead of having surplus production for export, we are exporting our human resources and active workforce. The common people are suffering from an awful situation created by price hikes on essential commodities. Corruption has become a part of the culture of the country. Institutional dysfunction and poor governance is experienced at every level of national life. It seems we are lacking policies and prospects.
Citizen awareness and the role of civil society are equally important. In fact, everyone rules in a representative democracy but indirectly. Collaborative and constructive engagement of civil society, including non-governmental and not-for-profit organisations, free media, citizen-based organisations and occupational and professional organisations can play a significant role in the formulation and implementation of public policy in a multiparty democratic society.
Poverty is acute here. There is widespread unemployment in the country. People have few opportunities. Thus, the general understanding is for a restructuring of the political and legal system and economic prosperity. Nepal needs the state to play an increasing role as an active partner, investor, implementer and reformer. For this to happen, decentralisation, de-bureaucratisation and greater budget allocations to the social sector is a basic requirement. Our federal structure should meet this need.
Civil society is not above reproach
Meaningful participation of civil society can build a consequential change to improve the lives of the people. But we are divided. Everyone is affiliated to someone. Everyone partakes in petty politics whenever they see a personal benefit. The role of civil society, international non-governmental organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and even the media has not been above criticism. Often, civil society organisations are disparaged for having a political colour. Many NGOs are pro-government or pro-political parties. The media could be free and fair in dealing with issues. Political bias, media trade, yellow journalism and lap journalism can be seen between the lines when one reviews popular electronic media outlets and highly circulated newspapers.
The country is faced with the challenge of low economic growth to overcome widespread poverty. Almost every government is believed to be directing its efforts towards accelerating economic growth and alleviating poverty. But there has been a prolonged debate on what development model is best for achieving sustainable political and economic growth and development in the country. Discussions have been held on an appropriate development strategy to develop agriculture, tourism and business and generate more jobs to alleviate poverty.
We are quite used to welcoming prime ministers, ministers and leaders to lead the nation. Leaders have come and gone. But we need good leadership. We have the principles and policies of a democratic republic; the only thing lacking is commitment. We have heard leaders blaming their counterparts in the next party or colleagues in the same coalition for any failure in governance. Why can’t leaders make a self-appraisal? Leaders must learn to engage in self-criticism instead of attacking their counterparts through abusive speeches. They must admit that they have failed. They must quit if they fail or they must ask for a revised mandate from the people for another chance. The people want loktantrik leadership.
Upadhyay is a professor, Sociology Department, Mahendra Morang Campus, Biratnagar