Stability Of Political Life
Dev Raj Dahal
The basic aspects of stability of political life in Nepal rest on Constitutional behaviour of leaders and citizens. Any deviation from its spirit spurs multilevel stresses. The Constitution of Nepal has defined the collective goals of citizens and appropriate means vital for the creation of public order, duty and community. It bars pursuing ends beyond its legal and normative limits. Politics in Nepal has become a best medium of conversation with all sectors of society. Its formal aspect operates in the public conversation, peaceful protests, party offices and the parliament. It is driven by necessity, opportunity and destiny and played on high promises, conflicting desire, interest and action on public issues. The informal domain of politics runs behind the scene, networks and familial ties in non-political areas which are no less salient. This plurality of setting imposes difficulty in the resolution of conflict.
The rules, procedures and methods of struggle of diverse Nepali political actors - parties, interest groups and citizens demand good public policy to improve their political life. Policy process is a vital area to solve problems in a world of causal determinism. Politics is a struggle about ideas, interests, ideologies, policies and identities the leitmotif of which is to gain power, position and personality projection. Do Nepali parties, civil society, economic institutions and public bodies maintain coherent position on the Directive Principles and Policies of the state or driven by their partial institutional biases? How can collective action be attained for the stability of democratic life able to stem the intangible forces of social disruption?
Certain points are relevant. First, compliance to the state’s authority, rule of democracy and governance imperatives is positively correlated with stable equilibrium with the society. It can balance ecology, society and economy without one unduly exploiting the other. The question of ends and means of politics is inadequate to reveal the polymorphous quality of Nepali politics driven by the revolutionary psychology of freedom and equality. How political power is acquired, used and transferred in the institutions shapes the gist of political culture. Distribution of scarce resources to weak social classes for the satisfaction of their vital needs nurture civic culture.
If power transfer is always done through agitation or extra-legal means, not through election and public opinion, it is hard to stop Nepal’s endless political transition and secure the stability of political life. It unleashes unintended consequences and multiple causes losing the standards of problem solution. When politics serves the private concerns of powerful, not public interests, it sinks and no authority can rebound its efficacy, legitimacy and sanctity unless political wisdom, linked with experience and intelligence, informs Nepali leaders and citizens about the duties to each other.
Second, edifice of constitutional regime and domestication of violence by law set other preconditions for stable political life. Nepali laws must be based on public reason, justice and public morality so that each pins hope on its integrity, equity and fairness and sticks to its domain on the hope that current regime serves their interests better in social emancipation. Basic needs deficits, unrealised rights and job scarcity affront their dignity. Politics as a national form of collective life is the sphere of equal reflection of interest, not the promotion of self, partisan or group interest which disunites society. This is essential now in Nepal because citizens have become capable of giving reasons for their actions and demand the transparency and accountability of their leaders’ promises and dealings.
Third, the powerful evocation of Nepali political life is sustained by the coordinating ability of leaders. This is important to seek synergy of social capital and public institutions and overcome democratic deficits. Soft power of cultural industries- education, media, civil society and culture - is essential for the political learning about citizens’ concerns and rights and actions that set the prime dynamics of political life. Political scientific inquiry of Nepali leaders’ ability to solve the interconnected problems such as skewed execution of constitution, functions of multi-level governance, management of economy, controlling social and political vices, fulfilling citizens’ hope, an adaptation to climate change and geopolitical balance rests on concerting action in positive direction.
Fourth, the circulation of functional elites of each generation, gender and social classes in the polity can sustain the dynamic stability of political life in Nepal. Patronage politics creates superfluous elites unable to perform duties and stokes a chasm in input and output functions of the polity. Democracy prefers achieving society over the ascriptive ones where leaders have to work in creating impersonal institutions in service delivery and maintaining their integrity and performance like a multi-cellular organism.
Fifth, the closeness of polity, public administration and institutions to the life of ordinary Nepalis and fulfilling their legitimate concerns muster trust in them. If the public expectations attached to the institutions and leaders are met the polity becomes adaptable to reforms and changes and copes with the problems of agitation, strike, anomie, and alienation. Their obstructive behaviour beyond the capacity of leaders to manage creates high costs in the realisation of collective goals defined by the Constitution. Nepali democracy can thrive if conflicts are resolved, not sustained, by leaders aiming to indulge in social engineering for the nation’s cultural transformation.
Sixth, the stability of political life of diverse Nepalis demands a policy of fostering equal stake and mutual coexistence through public education, opportunity and an improvement in the material structures of society. This needs choosing the best means suitable to achieve constitutional ends. Failure to find a mean state between selfishness and public good brings about binary politics of friend and enemy, not inclusion, which does not foster stable life of those in the knife-edge facing insecurity, isolation and pitiless jostling their own way unchanged by democratic benefits. If the life of politics in Nepal is steered by a goal of winning power and imposing will on others, it loses its legitimacy in the long run. Two paradoxes pervade Nepali politics which are obstacle to stable political life - decline of morality and dominance of private rationality governing public sphere. When politics becomes a limb of self-interest, like economy, life limps in a race of natural selection where no direction of production process stabilises Nepali politics for a rewarding life.
Seventh, political life is an associated life based on solidarity where all persons respond to the ongoing conversation about the past and present time and explore better possibilities about their own progress. The students of political science face the contradiction between what they have been taught by pedantic political scientists in the class rooms and what they experience in actual behaviour of their leaders. This arises from inadequate thinking about human nature which is the root of politics or inability of the state to produce socialised citizens. The inability of political scientists to predict the behaviour of Nepali leaders and voters indicates the fact that politics does not move as per constitutional theory like the laws of science. Intangibles often upset Nepal’s political balance. Therefore, insights from any generalisation of Nepali politics by empiricism, rationalism, materialism, positivism and enlightenment cannot fully furnish answers to the roots of political instability. Different ideological traditions of discourse in Nepal have bred rival visions each contesting the other’s public rationality of politics.
So long as perfect knowledge about human nature remains undetermined cultivating the stable political life teeters between political philosophy and its practice. The judgment about the passion, feeling and emotion is hard as they often wax and wane with the changing condition of human existence. But they are associated with political life searching the link of which will be like a priest chasing the immortality of the soul, a leap of faith beyond the grasp of scientific reason. Scientific insights are based on shared understanding. The pursuit of politics does not share the rival’s insight, not even evidence-based issue like climate change. Does it mean that stable political life in Nepal begins in the conscious hope and persistent striving for a good life? Perhaps Nepali leaders can answer this question. But they are captive of a predicament between what they want to achieve and constraining situation which makes it elusive. The success of science of politics lies in the art of statesmanship which alone is capable of achieving stable political life.
(Former Reader at the Department of Political Science, TU, Dahal writes on political and social issues)