Leadership In Federal Polity

Mukti Rijal


Nepal is cruising through an important and epoch making political phase in its history. The country has braced for federal type of polity and this has been institutionalised in the body politic of the country through democratic elections at three levels of the government. The elections for local, provincial and federal has been held in the country. These elections have been held smoothly and successfully. In fact, democratically elected leaders at local, province and federal level have already taken over the reins of the government. The destiny of the nation that has been cast in the federal mould has been passed on to the democratic leaders catapulted in their position and responsibilities through democratic elections.

However, challenges lie ahead since the democratic institutions are premature and yet to be consolidated. Moreover, democratic practices are yet to be made regular and routine in their full form. The country’s situation can turn into a chaos if wise, balanced and prudent decisions are not taken by the elected leaders at all levels of the government. In fact, 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 and prosperous society respecting each other with due accommodation and collaboration or precipitate ourselves into conflict and animosities generated by biases or prejudices is totally based 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 our leaders do today. It is in this context that a visionary leadership with holistic foresight and clear strategy at local, provincial and federal level was needed in the country. Such a positive leadership can have the courage to cross the boundaries of caste, gender, race, religion and age.
In fact, 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 of a democratic society where everyone can live together in harmony with dignity and respect. This type of leadership was needed at local, provincial and federal level. We have a good crop of young and enlightened elected leaders at the local level and provincial level in particular who can demonstrate and uphold the promise of integrative and accommodative leadership. Integrative leaders emerge through proper understanding, outlook, temperament and practice.
In the past especially after 1990s we had witnessed that some local government leaders rose above their partisan interests and delivered effectively to build their village, municipalities and districts. They had stood bravely against the parochial 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 BP Koirala and Manmohan Adhikari in Nepal. Mahatma Gandhi in India can be cited as an example of integrative positive leadership.
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 had 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 forces represented and advocated by the African National Congress (ANC). The apartheid white minority rule had manipulated the tribal divides to perpetuate and strengthen its grip on the power. In fact, 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. Some leaders in our societies 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 such 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 in our federal polity should not do anything that consequently leads to tear the larger unity of the nation even though such moves can serve their short-term interests. The moves to extend the olive branch to Madhesi parties and offer them spaces in the present government can be said as an example of the accommodative leadership. However, care should be taken to ensure that these moves are not reduced into bargaining and transactions that stand on the on the way of pursuing quest for prosperity and equity in the country.

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