Working In Federal Setup

Kushal Pokharel

The entire political atmosphere of the country from the last week has been overwhelming. Worried by the state of confusion even after the clear mandate, the ordinary people had already been talking about the repetition of the similar trend of unresponsiveness and betrayal from the political parties. But positive signs have finally arrived. With the election of the National Assembly and the first meeting of the provincial assemblies in 7 states, the process of ending the current political deadlock after the November polls have gained momentum.

As they say, ‘better late than never’, the country is likely to witness a new central government at least within a month. Possibly, the election of the chief ministers will also be over shortly which will help to establish provincial governments too. While it’s obvious that the government will be formed under the leadership of the left alliance that commands a majority in the national parliament – even the early indications of the national assembly results suggesting the same, what remains unclear is the manner in which the new government will operate. In fact, no discussion of this sort has emerged among the political parties in terms of rethinking the ways of functioning under the federal structure.

Lessons

At this juncture, some critical questions that confront the leadership are: What set of attributes the leadership possess to cope with the challenges of the federal system? Will it embrace change or be resistant to it? What sort of learning will the leaders take from the bitter past experiences of running a failed government not to repeat the similar mistakes in the coming days?

Regarding the first question, it will be significant for the leadership to demonstrate certain quality sets like humility, integrity, effective communication among others for better performance. Making necessary arrangements for listening to the public concern, banking on the advice of key experts in various fields of development-health, education, communication etc for an informed policy decision shouldn’t be overlooked to accomplish the goals of economic prosperity along with social and human development. Patience to hear the opposition, a culture of continuous engagement with various actors of development, civil society, development agencies and academia can be stepping stone in the direction of achieving the stated goals.

Second, whether or not the leadership embrace change will have a direct implication in the success of the new government. Abandoning the conventional change resistant mind-set is a must. At a time when the entire structure of the politics and the governance system has changed and become new, it will be impossible to deliver if the leaders can’t think and act differently. This would mean demonstrating a political culture of transparency, accountability and participation. In addition, change would also imply improving the structure and function of the government. For instance, a moderate sized government and revamping of the hierarchical structures within the ministries and departments to make it more public focused on outcomes rather than processes. Hence, behavioural and attitudinal changes are the key. The political leaders particularly those who will run the government should think out of the box in managing the affairs of the state for improved service delivery. Abandoning the self-centric behaviour and the culture of nepotism and favouritism needs to come to a grinding halt.

Critical reflections on the past endeavours by the leaders- the rise and fall of the several policy initiatives and the methods of running the state system will help to make an informed judgement based on empirical evidence as we move towards make federalism work. Spending some quality time on serious contemplations over why things didn’t work for so long period of time in the field of country’s development would be useful. In this regard, conducting necessary discussions at the level of political leaders as well as other non-state actors might result in reaching a logical conclusion. But unless and until, the process of self-exploration is made in this fashion, the danger lies ahead that similar mistakes will be replicated in the coming days and the public hope of a better Nepal will be dashed.

Suspicions

Addressing the above mentioned issues will carve a clear path for effectively implementing the federal system. While there is a heightened doubt on whether the new system will sustain or not along with the question of change in the mind-set and behaviours of the leaders, the only option for the leaders to dismiss these suspicions is to have specific answers to these questions.

On a positive note, federalism in the best interest of people mayn’t be far away if the leaders are really willing to step out from their old ways of thinking and behaving and open up themselves to be more consultative, people friendly, honest and hardworking. Having said that, it is also the responsibility of every Nepali citizen to work from their side in every possible ways for making the federal system work instead of engaging in pessimistic gossips about the unavoidable failure of the new setup in the near future.

 

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