A governance system that embraces the norms and values that are proper for the Nepali society and culture has become the hope of the stigmatised society. The need of a visionary and dynamic leadership has become the ultimate wish of the Nepalis if sovereignty is to be preserved
Nepal is on the brink of a political crisis, but the politicians are too occupied with the 'game of thrones', negating the aspirations of the Nepalis. Even after 30 plus years of political democratisation in Nepal, it seems it is moving backwards. Smooth development and good governance, as aspired by the Nepalis, have proved elusive amid the political instability that has seen 11 prime ministers in three decades.
The Human Development Index curve and reports published by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the like reflect a steady development pattern. So the question is, why do the Nepalis loath the representative democratic government and desire to see an alternative system in Nepal? Slogans like "Come King and save the nation" and the wish for "military rule" have started resonating in the society. If we believe in the cyclic phenomena, a question crosses our mind: are the Nepalis trying to seek an alternative to the prevalent political system? Comparing and analysing the status of development and level of satisfaction in Nepali society with that of the monarchy era become imperative to understand the contemporary outcry. Besides, understanding the persona of a Nepali is pertinent to validate the effect of the social and political developments in the three decades.
Nepalis by virtue of belonging to the 'sanatan society' are simple, adaptive, forgiving, reckless, poor, and can easily be carried away and manipulated.
With this personification of the Nepali in mind, it is worth stating the initiative taken by King Mahendra to initiate the 5-year development plan to develop Nepal in 1956. Mapping the infrastructure for development (Mahendra Highway stretching from East to West) and establishing industries are a few of the many initiatives he undertook, which opened up the road to independence from relying on the neighboring states for goods and services.
This legacy of King Mahendra still finds its way in contemporary politics as the development plan continues.
Elucidated below are a few prominent decisions, actions and practices by the governments in the post monarchy era that aggravated the disenchantment with democracy.
The first decision of the first government right after the restoration of multi-party democracy was privatisation of stateowned industries, namely, Birgunj Sugar Factory, Bansbari Leather and Shoes Factory, Bhrikuti Paper Industries, Harisiddhi Brick and Tile Factory, which shattered the notion of being self-reliant in certain products.
The second was privatisation of the education and health sector in the absence of firm regulatory policies, creating socio-economic division in the society. Their services have thus become unaffordable for the common Nepalis.
The ill-planned transition resulted in political instability and rise in insecurity.
The overarching interference and intervention by international actors seen during the drafting of the Constitution of Nepal 2015 put the very sovereignty of Nepal at stake. In the absence of a homegrown approach (social structure, economy, culture) to constitution-writing, the Nepalis became silent spectators, with hopes that this would somehow lead to a utopian Nepal.
Neo-patrimonialism has infiltrated Nepali polity.
Mafiasmhas flourished at every corner of society – in the words of author Rajib Upadhya – as "cabalism and cartelism". A common Nepali is unable to exercise his rights as a citizen in the absence of political or bureaucratic connection. The most battered is the public welfare service delivery system, against the cost of medical treatment of political leaders at the place of their choosing.
The cost benefits of the political division of Nepal into federal states are painstakingly high for a small country like Nepal with a small economy. Nepal has seven federal states while India, which is 22 times larger than Nepal geographically, has 28 federal states. Similarly, Nepal has 275 members in the parliament compared to India's 543. The constitution has given rise to socio-political division among the Nepalis by pushing identity politics.
The question is, does Nepal really need to have federal states? Innovation, productivity and competition have become a myth as most of the appointments are based on negotiation, compromise, connection and interests of the reigning power over competency. Bargain and gain have become the tool administering political management and decisions.
The meddling by the primary organs of the state in each other's functions has put a question mark on the institutionalisation of the Constitution. The recent verdict of the Supreme Court on July 12, 2021, which nominated Sher Bahadur Deuba as the Prime Minister of Nepal, is yet another example of the Judiciary crossing the border of primary function and responsibility, which could have been done through consensus among the political parties.
A dilemma in understanding the cradle of politics that governs the country is developing in Nepali society. The intermingling of hardware and software of bureaucratic and political organisations has resulted in the outcry for the need to reengineer the government system in Nepal.
It has become urgent to analyse the unitary system of government vs multiparty democracy and the necessity of federal states vs administrative divisions for Nepal.
A governance system that embraces the norms and values that are proper for the Nepali society and culture has become the hope of the stigmatised society.
The need of a visionary and dynamic leadership has become the ultimate wish of the Nepalis if sovereignty is to be preserved.
It is often wise to pass the ball back to reorganise, consolidate strategy and move forward to win the game in football.
Socio-economic justice and security over economic development and political instability are what Nepalis aspire. The quest for alternatives to the present democratic system of government should prevail to save the nation from failing.
A version of this article appears in the print on July 27 2021, of The Himalayan Times.