Together We Stand
Yuba Nath Lamsal
A rainbow is something that can be seen but not caught. It is beautiful only to behold and observe but not to feel. Nepal’s contemporary politics and leaders also appear like a rainbow - only to be seen but never to be found in result and action.
Politics revolves around the leaders everywhere in the world. People are said to be at the centre of politics, especially in a democratic polity. But this is merely a theoretical and academic undertone. It hardly materialises in practical politics. Leaders have the final and decisive say, whereas people have the least say, except at the time of a referendum or election. But that, too, is often manipulated and engineered. People’s desire is not always reflected in the polls.
Let us take this year’s US presidential election results. In the election, the Democratic Party’s candidate, Hillary Clinton, secured more popular votes than her Republican rival Donald Trump. But Trump won the election and was declared the new president of the world’s most powerful and democratic country. The electoral system is such that even one who gets more popular votes can lose the election. Nothing can be more ironic than this.
None expected Trump to win, but he did. All pre-poll predictions failed. The American election result is an indication that politics is taking a rightist turn in the world. Brexit and the rise of Theresa May in British politics is yet another manifestation of emerging rightist politics in the world. This trend started visibly with the rise of the BJP in Indian politics in South Asia, which now has global repercussions. These events are just symptoms of the newly emerging global phenomenon that is witnessing the revival of rightist politics once again.
Nepal is a small country, and political developments in Nepal may not have any significant impact on a global scale. But what has happened in Nepal is just a repercussion of the emerging global phenomenon. Nepal’s politics is also likely to return to rightist mode once again, which may be reflected in the upcoming elections.
Nepal has a huge leftist vote bank, but rightist or non-leftist forces remained in power for a long time. Until 1990, Nepal remained under absolute monarchy with no democratic rights and freedom. The political change in 1990 saw the abolition of absolute monarchy and re-establishment of multi-party system in Nepal. The 1990 political change was ushered in by the successful movement, jointly launched by the Nepali Congress and the communists, but the commander of this movement was the Nepali Congress leader, Ganesh Man Singh.
The Nepali Congress, therefore, had a dominant role in the 1990 movement, which was also reflected in the post-1990 movements of Nepal. However, the presence of leftist forces in the country was also strong, and its impact started to become visible in Nepalese politics slowly.
In the 1991 general election, the Nepali Congress won a majority in Parliament and formed its government, while the CPN-UML emerged a strong opposition party in Parliament. Despite winning a working majority in Parliament, the NC failed to complete its five-year term, paving the way for a mid-term election in 1994, in which the CPN-UML emerged the single largest party in Parliament, but short of a majority to form its own government.
The Nepali Congress was reduced to becoming the second largest party. This was a clear indication that Nepal’s politics was taking a left swing. However, neither could the leftists keep their vote bank intact nor could they be united. The communists continued to split and disintegrate, the benefit of which went to the non-leftist parties, namely the Nepali Congress. The CPN-UML split in 1998, allowing the Nepali Congress to won a majority in the next general election.
The leftist vote bank is still strong, and should all the leftist parties unite and contest the election on a common platform, they can form a majority in Parliament. But this is not the case because there is always ugly rivalry among the leftist parties, and the communists seem ready to form alliances with non-leftist parties but not with the leftists.
The CPN-Maoist launched a decade-long armed insurgency, which again enlarged the leftists’ influence in Nepal. In the election held in 2008 for the Constituent Assembly, all leftists combined won over 62 per cent seats in Parliament, but, in the absence of unity, they could not make any significant impact in governing the country. Communists kept on playing against one another, which benefited the non-communist forces.
In the 2013 election too, the leftists combined had significant presence in Parliament. But their role has not been effective because they are divided, paving the way for anti-leftist forces to have greater say in the political decision-making.
Although the Nepali Congress is a centrist party with social democratic ideology, it has hardly practised what it preaches. Instead, the policies and programmes the NC has adopted seem to be more rightist than centrist, which is in sharp contrast to its official doctrine. Similar is the case with the communists.
The communists are no longer communists, and the NC is no more a centrist or social democratic party. The NC is moving on the rightist path while the communists are leaving leftist ideology and slowly shifting towards the centre, and in certain cases into rightist opportunism.
The recent developments in Nepal are a manifestation of opportunistic politics not based on ideals, ideology and principles but on personal, partisan and political gains. This is the reason why politics has drawn public apathy. The crux is the mismatch and inconsistency between the principles and practice.
Nepal’s politics now revolves around POD (Prachanda, Oli and Deuba). They are the principal leaders of Nepal’s three largest parties. Sometimes circumstances develop in such a way that politics is not even in their hands. The Madhesi parties and leaders may think that their role is crucial in Nepalese politics, but they, too, are not in the scene as far as practical politics is concerned, although their agenda and demands keep on festering both from within and outside.
Then what is wrong with our politics? We blame external forces for meddling in our internal politics. But it is we who have given the external forcers ground to meddle in. We do not try to find a solution to our own problems in Kathmandu or somewhere within our own country but prefer to seek it in foreign capitals. This has been the case since the 1951 political arrangement upto now. Herein lies the fundamental flaw.
Unless we depart from that mentality and build confidence in ourselves, Nepal’s politics may slip out of our hands, the symptoms of which are already starting to be seen. Nepal is a diverse country composed of many ethnic groups, cultures, linguistic communities and geographical regions. Nepal belongs to its citizens—irrespective of where we live within this country, irrespective of our ethnic and cultural identity. We may live in the mountains, mid-hills or Madhes, but our common identity is Nepali. If we lose control of our politics and decision-making, we will all become losers.
Harmony and unity
There may be attempts to reap benefits by dividing us in the name of ethnicity, geographical region and cultural and linguistic identity. We must be alert and guard against such attempts and maintain our harmony and unity. Our future is bright only in our unity. This country belongs to all, and we must ensure that we all have equal share in the opportunities, for which constitutional and legal mechanisms must be framed. This needs to be taken into account with utmost seriousness as we are in the process of constitutional amendment, which should not be taken as a win for one section and loss for others.
Our entire purpose should be directed towards the move that will ensure the victory of Nepal. If Nepal wins, all of us will win, and if the country loses we all will be losers. We must remember: ‘together we stand and divided we fall’.