For Better Democratic Future
Dev Raj Dahal
The collective business of society, conducted by conscious citizens, can flourish democracy in Nepal. The sovereignty of each Nepali citizen presupposes him or her to creatively contribute to politics, assert their constitutional rights and acquire willpower to perform duties. Democratic rule aims at fulfilling the rights of citizens and musters their loyalty to the Nepali state. Their unfulfilled promises will, however, set a context for their future struggle for the right to participate in decision. Hierarchy, social stratification and social division of labour do not hamper rights-bearing citizens for their social mobility.
Modern rights are individual rights of self-expression and self-organisation and, therefore, their reconciliation with vigorous public will is vital to resolve a tension between human nature and constitution. The struggle for freedom is a path to democracy that frees human thought and body control from other’s will. It alters the legal disposition of society making the text and tradition fit for rational order based on the constitution that also sets checks to control power and authority of leadership. The inalienable rights of Nepalis enable them and their representatives to acquire maturity in reflections and exercise democratic power. In the future, they will struggle hard to reduce the gap between democratic ideal of social equality and inability of polity to execute this ideal in their lived reality. Modern democratic belief has emerged from the liberty of individuals rooted in the rationalist concept of society as opposed to traditional concept of group rights that dominate Nepal’s constitution. The cosmological or human rights will widen their horizon beyond power-interest, relativism, positivism and ascribed subsidiary identity. Cross-cultural fertilisation will spur national identity of citizenship and feel elevated by humanity.
Democratic laws help abolish all forms of feudal privileges and enable each Nepali to hone his or her virtues to participate in a series of transformative events underway. It also cuts the privileges of new meritocratic aristocracy bred by careerist politicians, bureaucracy, business, technology and associational leaders of civil society who wield huge influence on political power without matching accountability for democratic leveling of citizens. Democracy finds its equilibrium when optimal needs of society are fulfilled and its institutions acquire values, stability and performance legitimacy. Democratic dividends under social, economic, political and technological hierarchy become stiff for those without choice and agency. They look for an idea of a rational political community that values every one and claim a policy for the recognition of their diverse cultures forming a national mosaic.
Preceding the state of nature, civil society of Nepal, as school of democracy, need to act as a buffer between individual citizen and the state. They need to cultivate civic virtues in citizens and leaders in the pursuit of public good. The duty-based Nepali civil society have created community power in the state for peaceful existence for long and universalised their dignity through projects of emancipation, entitlement, recognition and opportunity for good governance. In the future, these ideals will remain uncontested across the party lines as they have shifted the role of government to empower the destitute. This means the future struggle of Nepalis will be on their dignity which is a moral basis of democracy. Building human faculties, rediscovering its cosmopolitan heritage and human security rooted in freedom from basic needs deficits, freedom from the fear of domination and freedom from the specter of pre-liberal violent past are vital to forge a bond of shared future. Nepalis will struggle to move into post-liberal transitional justice, reconciliation and peace while leaders will veer on practical issues of order, stability and prosperity. Finding the cardinal virtues of two actors in a relative mean will be the test of leadership to craft Nepal’s crystal democratic future in an uncertain world.
It is hard to know how these freedoms can be attained when the market has reduced the locus of democracy, the national state, to only titular power unable to disperse, decentralise and separate powers to empower citizens by lifting them above the rituals of habit, myth and metaphysics. This means the historical struggle of Nepalis will shift from the territorially embedded state to disembodied capital and hybrid regime. Property right for dispossessed in a condition of imperfect market is a must to sustain the base of social justice which they merit to reclaim control of their destiny for a freer life. Distributive justice provides opportunity for the poor to gain income and wealth. This is critical for self-determination and emancipatory project of modernity. A positive correlation exists between democracy and distributive justice as the former enables Nepalis to choose the aim of their life and satisfy their preferences. They do so by developing capability, ability for judgment and cultivating civic virtues of social and national solidarity.
This means the struggle of Nepalis in the future will be on the democratisation of education. It is a key to fight cruel fate and unlock prosperity. After all, democratic education with the access of all Nepalis can contribute to the creation of civic culture and get rid of lie, libel and violence as a tool of instrumental politics that feeds distrust, division and differentiation among citizens, not solidarity for collective action. Public education is vital to prevent the division of Nepali society into winners and losers. Inequality in access to education and health might keep citizens in a destitute pose unable to use their conscience and sap their ability to monitor and judge democratic quality.
Nepali political parties have become successful to convert votes into political power but remain feeble in translating the electoral promises into actual policies. Now, the political establishment represented by Communist Party of Nepal finds hard to manage the grievances of citizens and look for common ground with a myriad of opponents —Nepali Congress, some Madhesh-based parties, anti-establishment radical left and restless identity groups so as to give ordinary citizens security to pursue the lives they chose. Estranged elements have spawned a non-democratic alternative as they disown the constitution believing that it cannot fulfill popular expectations. In no way Nepali politics now and in the future will signify left-right divide where labour and capital race with equal passion for the material and moral progress of Nepalis. A robust democracy of the future, based on their symbiosis, needs virtuous citizens and leaders who can stop the vices of society through the change of laws and adapt to zeitgeist.
The cheerful solidarity of labour has been thwarted by their massive export abroad leaving capital to free ride over the social, economic and political process without opposition. Fractious political parties, noisy media socialisation and the parliament devoid of policy making role furnish a paralysis of national will unable to create public security, execute the constitution and national initiatives. Deinstitutionalised party system in Nepal in the face of strong interest groups marks the abrasion of national centre drawing citizens to reclaim Nepali state in crisis time such as natural and human-induced disasters to rebound the quality of wellbeing. The social movements of women, Dalits, indigenous people and minorities uphold solidarity in egalitarian values of citizenship without the risk of assimilation.
The attrition of democratic balance and checks has given the rise to strongmen in politics who can, despite critical media gaze, undercut the authority of public institutions. Their rise in each political party of Nepal and their patronage has confined distributional politics to the cadres and followers. It has flagged the capacity of public institutions to create public order, resolve conflict and deliver public goods in an impartial manner. Inner-party democracy can be a remedy. It can make leaders accountable to public and link them to the masses. In a politics driven by business, strongmen briskly pursue their personal greed without caring democratic creed and public morality. It has blurred the boundary between the public purpose of democracy and their indulgence in private gain. In the future, Nepalis will indulge in alternative politics through civil disobedience, hunger strike and peaceful protests and transform the idioms of political action. Their demand for rule of law state to fight the antithesis of politics such as gender violence, corruption, cronyism, culture of impunity and hidden geopolitical games will grow in the future.
Hasty municipalisation of Nepali villages, devoid of urban and industrial facilities, will uproot rural communities and attract them to unplanned urban areas. It will leave peasants absence of critical mass of change agents and elements of modernity to articulate policy issues. Four challenges loom the governance: inter and intra-party rows, dreary bureaucratic constraints, heavyweights of interest groups and contesting narration of economic vision. Bureaucratic discipline, dialogues with extra-systemic parties, autonomy of governing institutions from interest groups and production-based economy can furnish Nepali leadership ability to cope with the concerns of diverse citizens and fulfill their vital needs.
Elections of local bodies in Nepal have offered a chance for leaders to exercise authority at the lowest possible level and execute subsidiarity hewing to the public will. It has unlocked a hope of creating reasonable society no longer burdened by poverty, inequality, denial and debt. But the ways authority is exercised in Nepal in the midst of deficits of finance, personnel, infrastructures and experience pose difficulty of local governance. In the future, democratic awakening will spur public action against the triumph of technology over nature. The ecological challenge will prompt the polity to bring economy in harmony with the ethics of sustainability.
The spirit of freedom can build self-confidence of Nepalis while mass education can help the subordinated get a voice to debate in the public sphere, peacefully solve their problems and discharge their public duties for progress. The capacity of democracy for self-renewal and self-correction in the context of new challenges - national and global - can furnish the harmony of ends and means-the principles and processes of democratic praxis. Broad-based social inclusion in the political power has empowered Nepalis but not nursed the ability of polity to penalise law breakers and enforce rule of law. Independent judiciary, mass media with freedom of information, civil society and attentive citizens have begun to question the performance of polity. It is the beginning of a hope to end public apathy and manage state power for positive payoffs. The innovation of social inclusion and proportional representation in Nepal will alter the future of democracy and expected to rekindle younger citizens’ hope in its process for a better life, liberty and welfare.