Congress leadership Demystification process has begun

The democratic leadership of the Nepali Congress (NC) stands as the only pioneer in the annals of political history. The end of 104 years of the despotic Rana rule under the leadership of the NC heralded the ‘democratic innovations’ based on the liberal philosophy practised in the contemporary democratic world, such as popular sovereignty, guarantee of the fundamental rights, competitive multiparty parliamentary system, free market-oriented economy and people’s will as the sources of state authority. In politics, structures matter but their successful performance is equally important by which the structures acquire value and stability in society. With the passage of time, however, the democratic process was stymied, taking politics towards royal absolutism. In 1990, many factors contributed to restoring democracy; of them, NC’s leadership was a catalyst for bringing all political forces together. Even the absolute monarchy and totalitarian communists were brought together under the democratic set-up.

In fact, the monarchy and the Left were in a dilemma due to their declining role in global politics. Day by day, the number of monarchies in the world had been declining, and the “third wave of democracy” dismantled the communist regimes elsewhere. The monarchy of Nepal lost its half legitimacy in the referendum of 1979; in later years, it even lost that legitimacy owing to its disruptive role against democracy and economic crisis in the country. The Nepali people, frustrated with the obsolete institution of monarchy, naturally appeared to be vocal in favour of republicanism. The CPN-Maoist brought all political forces together under one agenda of republicanism that has abolished the monarchy for ever.

No society can live without traditions, and the challenge of modernisation is to build up traditions into modernity. Taking account of the fact, NC thus conceived its leadership role for peaceful coexistence in which the two extreme forces could survive under the democratic set-up. The monarchy agreed to become a constitutional one, and the left forces metamorphosed into democrats. Even the present CPN-Maoist has joined the parliamentary process. If one is free from the tyranny of here and now, the 1990 Constitution was an epoch-making process towards strengthening democracy, but it was not sincerely implemented. However, step by step, the constitutional process began to flounder. During ten years, the political parties experimented with almost all provisions of the constitution in making and unmaking governments, only leaving the country in a chaotic situation. The declining role of the NC for democracy was self-evident when the party leadership was completely bogged down in internal fighting, corruption, political expediency, self-aggrandisement, and even dissolutions of the sovereign parliament on personal whims and caprices.

A democratic constitution matters but that alone cannot lay the foundation of democracy when political actors fail to behave democratically. While transition towards democracy concerns the whole body politic, democracy cannot be achieved rapidly, particularly in a country which has been under decades of royal absolutism, since changes in attitudes are less easily accomplished than changes in the political system. But the NC leadership role could not emerge powerfully with the emergent values and practices of democracy. Instead, the ten years of democratic practice not only affected the whole body politic but also created violence and conflicts in society. Whether one subscribes to this view or not, with the rise of the Maoist insurgency and the resurrection of the royal despotism, all the activities fell under the declining role of political parties, specially the NC.

The people were frustrated, alienated and thus there was popular disenchantment due to the discriminatory policy of the state, which led to the April uprising of 2006. The political parties, specially the seven-party alliance was struggling to restore democracy disrupted by the then king Gyanendra. In the meantime, the Maoist insurgency, which has created the Domino Effect in the law and order situation of the country, also joined the fray by pushing forward the agenda of peace, the fervent desire of the society. Restructuring measures became a common agenda of the movement, forcing the King to relinquish his absolute powers by restoring the parliament in April 2006. The present political change after the successful election to the Constituent Assembly on April 10, and declaration of federal democratic republic on May 28, marked a historic leap forward, a paradigm shift. The disparate political forces are responsible for the successful implementation of the restructuring measures. However, the NC leadership role has been demystified due to its weakness in consolidating democracy. Its second position in the CA election behind the Maoists would further the demystification process.

Poudyal is professor of political science,TU