Nepali politics : The burning issues

There is a famous saying that if a man is not political, he is either the god or the beast. At the heart of politics is coercive power wielded by state, government, political system, rule or authority. Sometime around 400 BC, Socrates remarked in relation to politics that “the only wisdom consists in knowing that I know nothing.” The principle of non-conformism propagated by Socrates is the edifice of democracy as we have known it around the world. Later, his disciple Plato said that good politics is the only way to attending to the goals and objectives of an ideal state.

Similarly, Aristotle claimed politics to be the master science for the welfare of the society and of the human beings at large. The ideals of non-conformism led to the Bill of Rights, 1668, the French Declarations and the American Bill of Rights, 1787. These documents help cement

the idea that nationalism was inconceivable without popular sovereignty. Not long after, the first wave of democracy subsequently rose in the Western Christian world, especially in Protestant societies, concludes Huntington.

Society embraces politics for three basic considerations, namely: constitutional order, security and welfare, a sharp distinction to living in uncivilised societies. Constitutional order is the structural aspect of politics creating conditions conducive to the rule of law, good governance and institutional process by which political institutions provide value and stability in the society. Security is the psychological aspect of society, which depends upon authoritative allocation of values between the people and the government of a state. And, welfare is providing equal opportunities for valued resources. It also refers to the concept of state as the dispenser of justice, and just and equitable dispenser of goods and services, honours, status and opportunity to all sections of society irrespective of all conceivable considerations. The goal of constitutional order, security and welfare is establishment of good governance or governanace aimed at the welfare of the people living within a state territory.

As every event is considered to be political, in what way does political writing differ from other kinds of writing? The simple answer is that politics as the coercive power is the science of state regulating multidimensional human behaviour and activities. What scarcity is to the economist, power is to the political scientist. The other objective of a political scientist is to recognise the people as the sovereign entity who exercise power through democratically elected government, people as citizens of state, holding equal rights before the law and having the freedom to exercise all the basic and fundamental rights granted to them by the constitution; and people as a nation made up of different ethnic and religious communities and groups. All these goals demand non-discriminatory state policies regarding people’s socio-economic and political rights that are granted to them by the constitution of the state.

Heretofore, political practice in Nepal has not been able to embrace the above-mentioned objectives, which are considered to be the foundations of a true democracy. It failed miserably in considering the plural character of the society by allowing inclusiveness in the policy-making process as well as in other areas of political activity that is considered indispensible to democracy. Continuation of the centralised nature of politics allowed hegemony of a handful of vested interests vis-a-via caste, class and region.

It is a great irony that even after the restoration of democracy in 1990, the major political parties failed to meet even the basic demands and necessities of the people,

especially in the remote and the outlying areas of the country. The activity of political system as a dispenser or distributor of benefits seemed to apply only to the politicians of major

political parties, their leadership, henchmen and cronies. Therefore, restructuring the Nepali state will essentially entail transition from traditional government to a modern nation through such phenomena like republicanism, federalism and recognition of ethnic identity following Jana Andolan II and the subsequent Constituent Assembly election.

The Constituent Assembly was elected with the fundamental objective of preparing the Constitution based on the model of a Federal Democratic Republic. The present Constituent Assembly represents the mosaic of the diversity of Nepali society and politics of consensus is the only basis for drafting a constitution for New Nepal. Democracy has no alternative. If any political party loses its democratic credentials, the political transition would derail. Therefore, the old roles need to be reversed. Only then will the restructuring process provide value and stability in the country.

Poudyal is professor of Political Science, TU