National scene Unstable power equilibrium

I have never believed in predetermined destiny notwithstanding Dor Bahadur Bista’s classic on fatalism among the ruling elites of the country. And yet it is hard not to feel a sense of a new storm arising in the political horizon of the nation. “The privilege of absurdity,” according to one writer, “is a phenomenon that characterises no other creature but man.” The way things are going it seems that we are all determined to become a victim of this privilege.

Look around. The symptoms of the emerging crisis are all there to see. When politicians who are in power come to be viewed as law-breakers instead of the other way around, democracy and governance are at a crisis. We have a deputy chairman of the government, who in spite of his projection as an articulate politician has failed to show as yet the political courage to answer convincingly the charges of financial indiscipline as a loan defaulter. We have a “grand alliance of the seven” that is geared not towards solving the political problems but in threatening the king to hand over power to a parliament that was dissolved over three years ago by the then prime minister precisely because it found itself unable to handle the Maoist problem.

The irony of it is that the alliance instead of demanding free elections and the necessary conditions for this goal is threatening to join hands with the Maoists whose avowed aim has always been — and they have been honest about it — the overthrowing of the multiparty system with a system of governance that will allow non-left parties to function if and when they prove their commitment to “progressive values”. Under this criterion it is doubtful if any party can qualify to survive. And then we have a government at present whose main focus seems at best confused and bewildered. Ministers in the government seem willing to go out of their way to berate political parties, come what may.

For the Maoists who have shown their skill and competence in tactical flexibility for strategic gain the present situation presents an excellent opportunity to play one side against the other with the possibility that they may eventually be able to impose their design on other political actors. The common people in the meantime are both puzzled and disappointed. They have seen the high tide of the political leaders that now define the group of seven and their experience has been of dashed hopes and crashed expectations.

The functioning of the present government on the other hand makes one wonder where we are heading. The level of dissatisfaction and even disillusionment with its style as well as performance is slowly but steadily increasing. There is an increasing apprehension among the people that we may be inching towards a failed state from a fragile state, something that

no one in the country wants to see happening. Still no one element in the political scene seems serious enough to be able to prevent it. When everyone sees an impending disaster, which is a loss-loss situation to all concerned and yet not able to cooperate to avoid this possibility, it is a display of absurdity.

The basic assumptions about our present reality among the political actors in the country are focused on power rather than the interests of the people and the nation. Commitment to democracy that even captures the mystic flavour of a “total democracy” — something like the concept of nirvana in religion — floats in our political landscape with remarkable ease and simplicity. However, the idea that it may be a good strategy for the constitutional forces to try to seek common ground for cooperation and mutual restraint as a part and parcel of a pledge to strengthen democracy remains a subject that no one wants to consider. All parties seem to ignore the fact that the present stalemate represents a power equilibrium that is inherently unstable and is not in the interest of the country.

Inability or unwillingness on the part of the main political forces in the country to define a common political space acceptable to all within a democratic framework remains the fundamental problem of the country today. A shrill political rhetoric or the threat of an opportunistic tactical alliance that lacks both substance and conviction has little use at the moment except to provide hope and encouragement to forces of extremism; but neither will a show of official commitment to political integrity, democracy and development devoid of necessary values and actions that people can actually see and feel lead to a peaceful solution.

The search has to be for a middle path that promises a political breathing space to all the parties involved. It is a difficult task that will require statesmanship that is capable of rising above the immediate interests of power and work towards a vision that considers first and foremost the supremacy and dignity of the Nepali people as the underlying basis for decisions.

Dr Lohani is co-chairman, Rastriya Janasakti Party