Political parties yet to develop federal mindset

Kathmandu, December 23

The country has already embarked on the journey towards federalism, but Nepal’s political parties seem to have not yet developed a federal mindset, especially on the decision making front.

Of the top three political parties, two — the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist Centre — have at least restructured their organisations in line with the country’s federal structure, but the oldest political force Nepali Congress is just ‘planning to hold consultations’ on the matter.

The situation is no different with the Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal and the Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal, which have been established as national-level parties after the recent parliamentary and provincial elections.

This is evident by the fact that no party could avoid disputes between the centre and local units while distributing tickets during three recently-held elections — local, provincial and parliamentary. The spirit of federalism is that the people should get to choose their leaders themselves, but there were several instances where central leadership ignored their local units’ recommendations and awarded tickets to people near and dear to them.

“This is a transition phase and the parties get the benefit of doubt, but their activities suggest they have yet to develop a federal mindset,” said political analyst Hari Roka. “If the trend continues and the parties fail to reform themselves, it will not only affect them but will also raise the chances of the country reverting back to the centralised system.”

He said the centre should only have the role of coordination, while the province and local units take decisions and execute them. “Since political parties are the people’s representatives, they should take the lead and present solid examples. If the people’s representatives themselves fail to do so, how can others, such as bureaucracy, adopt federalism in its true sense?” said Roka.

Nepali Congress leader Mahesh Acharya expressed a similar view and acknowledged his party had not yet started discussions on making the party’s organisation consistent with the country’s federal structure. The NC’s upcoming Central Working Committee meeting will discuss the issue, besides introspecting the crushing defeat in the elections.

“It is very important that we quickly address this issue and internalise the concept of inclusive democracy,” he said. “The country has been federated, but the party has not. So we must be able to let the local-level take decisions.”

According to Acharya, the upcoming NC CWC meet will majorly focus on any revision of the party’s policy, leadership development process, decision-making process, organisational structure and maintaining discipline. “All these things aim at making the party consistent with the concept of federalism,” he said.

UML Secretary Yogesh Bhattarai said his party had already restructured itself in line with the federal model by setting up central, provincial, district and local committees, but accepted that its implementation in a true sense would take some

time. “We have started the practice and will address any weaknesses as we move ahead. But it will take some time,” he said.

RJP General Secretary and Spokesperson Keshav Jha also said the very leaders who declared others ‘autocrats’ exhibited autocracy within the party. “It is very unfortunate that those who complained that they were not given power by the centre are reluctant to decentralise power within the party,” he said.

Jha said although the issue featured in discussions before the unification of six parties to form the RJP, the matter had been sidelined after the merger because of various factors such as the leaders’ reluctance to share power. “There were also other factors such as Tarai agitation and elections immediately after the merger,” he said. “But the fact is we cannot run away from this.”