Nepali politics : Understanding contradictory trends

In a discussion programme organised by Nepal Centre for Contemporary Studies (NCCS), Dr. Babu Ram Bhattarai said that without India’s cooperation, the 12-point agreement reached between the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the Maoists would not have been possible.

The international support, particularly that of India, encouraged the SPA, the Maoists and the civil society for the Jana Andolan II. Dr. Bhattarai also acknowledged the future role of the US in making democracy successful.

However, cautioning the United States and other powers, he urged them to be cognisant of the ground realities of Nepali politics that does not make any single party decisive in steering the course and hence cooperation among the SPA, the Maoists and the international community is imperative.

However, the SPA-Maoist understanding based on 12-point, 8-point and 5-point agreements has not made a headway due to mutual suspicion and fear. The international community and some SPA constituents feel that the Maoist commitment to multiparty competitive politics is deceptive because of its unwillingness to lay down arms until the constituent assembly (CA) polls.

The other Maoist conditions are interim constitution, interim government, end of monarchy and integration of Nepal Army and People’s Liberation Army. The major powers like the US, India and the EU prompt the SPA not to give in to Maoist conditions if the latter does

not make its position flexible on arms management.

The US continues to be dominant regardless of sensitivity of Nepal’s immediate neighbours. Other powers also agree that the Maoists should not be trusted unless they give up arms before joining the mainstream. India has not been able to shed its fear of the possible working relations between the Indian and Nepali Maoists despite the assurances given by the latter that the two have no such coordination and would not jeopardise India’s security.

Spread of communism by violent means might have been the major worry of the US and other democratic countries. But the Nepali context is otherwise which no foreign powers seem to be familiar with. All communist parties that come with a big bang have transformed their role.

Though it is too early to certify the Maoist party for such a role, its commitment and flexibility suggest that the Maoists want to play the role of a progressive party within the political framework to be produced by the joint effort of other parties and the Maoists.

Second, the crisis in governance due to unchanged mindset of party leaders and their workers has put a spoke in the democratic process. Moreover, their particularistic activities nullify the universalistic elements in democratic consolidation.

Particularism means the same old attitude, the same old practices, the same partisan interest, continuity in favouritism rather than adoption of norms of government by rule, procedure and merit.

Such unchanged mindset of party leaders has not brought about any qualitative change in governance. As a democratic party, NC could have excelled others by sticking to the norms of universalism.

Its internal party democracy and clear ideological position might have given it the extra image. The party could have seized an opportunity to make it the bearer of democratic

republicanism as the monarchical institution has reached a dead-end showing that no rescue measures would refurbish its image in democratic Nepal. NC would have a tough time bringing about a social, economic and political revolution if it continues to be personality-based and particularistic.

At a time when the country needs a radical socio-economic and political agenda together

with the elements of universalistic criteria of formal democracy, its inability to provide a strong and performance-oriented government would not continue its image. Thus, renewal of NC and other principal parties is a must for meeting modern challenges.

Finally, the transformation of the Maoist revolution into a procedural democracy is a stupendous task. For winning the hearts of the people in general, the Maoist party is expected to adhere to its radical agenda without becoming violent and oppressive. It needs to refurbish its image of a democratic party willing to transform the society and polity through peaceful means. It does not mean that it should compromise its politics of hybridisation of liberalism and progressivism or lose its identity of being a revolutionary party.

Other parties can follow suit in order to be genuinely democratic and people-centric. For such a transformation, the vestiges of feudalism and other regressive trends should be eradicated.

Prof. Baral is executive chairman, NCCS