Accommodative Leadership Makes Difference
By Mukti Rijal
Nepal is passing through an important political phase in its history. The country has braced for federal type governance, and this is being institutionalised and firmly implanted in the body politic of the country through democratic elections. The local level election is now underway in the country. The first phase local election has been held more or less successfully whereas the second phase poll for local level governments has been scheduled for the last week of this month.
In fact, elected leaderships at local, province and federal levels is taking over the reins of the government at their respective levels in the days to come. The destiny of the nation that has been cast in the federal mould is being passed on to the popular leaders catapulted in their position and responsibilities through democratic elections.
However, challenges lie ahead since the democratic institutions are premature, and practices are yet to be made regular and routine in their full form and manifestation. The country’s situation can turn into a chaos, if wise, balanced and prudent decisions are not taken by the elected leaders. What the elected leaders do today will determine to which direction the country will be heading tomorrow. Whether we will live together in harmony and peace in a democratic society respecting each other with due accommodation and collaboration or precipitate ourselves into conflict and animosities generated and fuelled by biases or prejudices is totally hinged on the decision the elected leaders take and act today.
Moreover, whether we go on deepening and yawning the differences--political, social and cultural-- and misuse them as the pretext for conflict and discord or appreciate them as hallmark of composite diversity is fully dependent on what we intend to do today. It is in this context that a visionary leadership with holistic foresight and clear strategy at local, provincial and federal level is needed in the country. Such a positive leadership can have the courage to cross the boundaries of caste, gender, race, religion and age.
Thus, the need of hour in Nepal is positive and appreciative leadership at different levels. The positive leadership having an integral vision can prevent the society from getting polarised and divided. Such a leadership sews the diverse communities into a fine fabric to build a democratic society where every one can live together in harmony with dignity and respect. This type of leadership was needed at the local, provincial and federal levels.
We have a good crop of young and enlightened elected leaders at the local level who can demonstrate and uphold integrative leadership. Integrative leaders emerge through proper understanding, outlook, temperament and practice. In the past we saw some local government leaders rose above their partisan interests and delivered effectively to build their villages, municipalities and districts. They had stood bravely against the swallowed vision of the party cadres and aligned themselves with broader wellbeing of the community.
Going to the broader national and regional level we have the examples of B. P. Koirala, Manmohan Adhikari in Nepal. Mahatma Gandhi in India can be cited as examples of integrative positive leaders. At the broader international level Nelson Mandela in South Africa is cited to be brilliant example of the integrative and accommodative leadership. In fact, his integrative vision was instrumental to transform South Africa from a racist and apartheid nation into a democratic society.
Needless to say, South Africa especially during the Apartheid era was a highly polarised and divided society. Divisions not only existed between the Black and the White but there were also splits based on ethnicity, class, culture, religion and language. The apartheid system had bred intolerance, a culture of violence and lack of respect for life.
What is interesting to note is the fact that the political violence in South Africa was not only resulted from the contradiction between the White minority apartheid rulers and Black majority people, but also between the traditional tribal forces and democratic and libertarian forces represented and advocated by the African National Congress (ANC). More people were killed due to inter-tribe conflicts and animosities than the violence caused to liberation
movement in South Africa.
The apartheid white minority rule had manipulated the tribal divides to perpetuate and strengthen its grip on power. Had not Nelson Mandela given leadership with integral vision, South Africa would have been split into ethnic enclaves always embroiled into conflicts. Integral vision is seeing the whole, not parts or fragments. It is the conviction and commitment of the leader to hold all sides into composite unity. The integral leaders do not exploit the fragile and volatile situation for narrow and parochial interests. Needless to say, leaders with integral vision, therefore, commit themselves to seeing as much of the larger picture as possible.
At this time, issues of constitution amendment are hotly disputed in Nepal. The context has been further complicated as political and social stakeholders are blowing their own trumpets
without seeing the larger picture and canvas of social landscape.
Some section of leaders appear to be demagogues and parochial. They stick to their oft repeated position grounded on the assertion of their narrow identity of some communities oblivious of the composite and plural character of our social formation.
Mark Gerzon, a leading conflict expert, describes these types of leaders as demagogues. Demagogues are always inclined to magnify differences, polarise relationships and sabotage cooperation. Positive leaders should seek to build partnerships and alliances to integrate the society and forge common destiny of the Nepalese people. Leaders should not do any thing that consequently leads to tear the larger unity of the nation even though such moves can serve their short term interests.