Litmus Test For The Left
Ritu Raj Subedi
Nepal’s communist parties are, for the first time, going to form a majority government following their historic victory in the three-tier elections conducted in line with the roadmap of the new constitution promulgated in 2015. The CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist Centre, which are the constituents of the Left Alliance, have secured a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives and state assemblies of six provinces out of seven. They jointly command around 71 per cent of the elected representatives at the local level units with sweeping powers. This electoral triumph is monumental for the Left Alliance as its governments, formed at the federal, provincial and local level, are entrusted to vigorously implement the federal, secular and republican constitution to usher the impoverished nation onto the path of stability and economic prosperity.
The Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) was formed in 1949 with a view to toppling the autocratic Rana rule and guarantee full civil liberty for the citizens of all classes. In its first manifesto, it had made a clarion call for ending feudalism and imperialism, thereby establishing a democratic Nepal. It envisioned distributing land to all the farmers to make them masters of their own destiny. During the dark Rana regime, the people were deprived of basic political, social and cultural rights, so the CPN focused on ensuring the fundamental human rights. At the heart of its ideology and policy lay the vision of creating an egalitarian society that ensures social justice, inclusive growth and welfare state.
Nepal has witnessed many struggles, movements and revolutions in the last seven decades. They were driven by the people’s deeper aspirations for stability, peace and prosperity. The new national charter has institutionalised the gains of all the past political upheavals and takes the nation to another stage of reconstruction. The three-level election is the first milestone in the direction of attaining these objectives.
Coincidently, history has bestowed onerous responsibility on the communist parties to build Nepal anew. In the past, there were several communist-led governments, but they lacked the wherewithal to implement their programmes and policies. The new left government is tasked with building a socialist-oriented economy as envisaged by the statute. The statute, written by the elected Constituent Assembly, has vindicated the initial vision of the CPN. The constitution has prescribed three pillars of the economy – public, private and cooperative – to achieve sustainable development and realise many social security schemes. While asserting the role of the state, it has also attached priority to the private sector to form capital and enhance the overall economy.
This sort of social market economy has been successfully followed by many European nations, including the Nordic ones, and other countries such as China, the world’s second largest economy. It rejects market fundamentalism and orthodox communism and promotes formation of national capital with the participation of the private, public and cooperative sectors.
It is indeed an uphill undertaking to implement the welfare provisions of the statute as the country’s economy is fuelled by remittances and depends on foreign aid for its development works. Taxes are not sufficient to spur development. Successive governments have been unable to spend the capital expenditure, putting a question mark on the institutional capacity of the state to expedite development works and build the basic infrastructure.
The trade deficit with the neighbouring nations is soaring. The country lacks exportable items that can help balance the trade and earn foreign currency. Nonetheless, these challenges can be converted into opportunities, provided the new government chalks out shrewd, pragmatic and far-sighted policies, giving priority to agriculture, medium-sized industries and technological innovation.
The nation holds immense natural resources. Its huge water resources can be tapped to earn ‘blue dollars’ and create jobs. At the moment, Nepal enjoys a demographic dividend with a more than 57 per cent young population active in the labour market. In the absence of employment opportunities, they are forced to go abroad and toil in the Gulf and other nations. Their skills and knowledge could be utilised at home for the growth of the national economy.
The new government stands to benefit from the two big neigbours that have made big strides in economic and infrastructure development. As a signatory to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Nepal is poised to attract more Chinese investment to enhance its infrastructure, trade and connectivity. China is already the biggest investor in Nepal, and the BRI can serve as a vital instrument to overcome the country’s development deficit.
The Left Alliance has promised to bring the Chinese railway system to Nepal to reduce the dependency on India and get access to the sea via Chinese territory. It needs to act aptly to deal with the geopolitical challenges that will come in the way of reaping advantage from the multi-billion dollar BRI.
The Left Alliance has, in its poll manifesto, pledged to ensure stability and deliver prosperity to the people. It exhorted the voters to give a chance to meet these overriding goals. These two vital poll agenda appealed to the voters, who have been sick of prolonged transition. The Nepali Congress tried to sell its past glory and unnecessarily invoked the spectre of communism during the poll campaign, but the communists drew up a socio-economic map of a future Nepal, which had positive impact on the electorates. The Left Alliance exposed the NC’s inability to run the country although it got a strong electoral mandate three times to lead the government in the past. Political stability is the key to attracting foreign investment, and the new administration is expected to restore stability to boost the confidence of domestic and foreign investors.
Nepal is on the cusp of transformative moments, and the communist parties have obtained the mandate of carrying the historic mission. It will be a litmus test for the resurgent Left to prove its mettle. It must not fritter away the golden opportunity by indulging in intra-party conflict. Failing to accomplish this responsibility will lead to disastrous consequences for the nation and the people as well. This will not only let down the people but also put the nation on the vicious cycle of instability and poverty. The new leadership must be aware of this fact and keep the promises expressed in its common manifesto.