Flouting democratic ideals, deceiving people
Freedom of speech, of political and social activities and of association are central norms of a democratic society. And morality is the cornerstone of any government in the world.
But Nepal government seems be frequently flouting these ideals. Media Council and Information Technology bill introduced by the government contains provisions to curtail basic rights of freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution. Whereas the Criminal Code of the nation has adequate laws to take actions against anyone found guilty in case of violation of law, this bill intends to subdue the voice of the public which often pours in the social media to criticise untoward government actions.
Along with it, the Government of Nepal has registered Nepal Special Service Bill at the National Assembly. The bill has a clear provision of surveilling or intercepting an individual. Clause 10 of the bill clearly states that audio or visual conversation of an individual or an institution can be monitored. If this bill gets passed, then it is obvious that personal freedom will be sabotaged.
This is in keeping with the world trend. Throughout the world, most of the governments intend to disregard dissent. People have been unable to express their dissenting voices, especially on government policies. It needs to be emphasised here that dissent is the other word for freedom of thought.
However, expressing dissent has become a far cry in democratic countries like India. The recent Citizenship Amendment Bill and the oppression of the protesters, the brutal attack on Jawaharlal Nehru University students who have been protesting fee hikes in the university, mainstream media shamelessly parroting government’s voices serve as examples of populist government causing harm to democratic values.
The value of democracy persists in diverse opinions. And it is a necessary catalytic agent to which society owes its progress. Without dissent society becomes stagnant and moribund.
Governments disregard dissent and at the same time value Machiavellian character of deceiving the public. Niccolo Machiavelli in his magnum opus The Prince (1517) portrays some of the essential quality for a leader. Deceit is one of those qualities.
Machiavellianism is a term used to describe a person’s tendency to deceive and manipulate others for personal gain. In simple terms, Machiavellianism implies that in the arena of power, the end justifies the means. Machiavelli opines that for a politician, power is the most important thing, morality be damned.
To know how a modern Machiavellian would look like, we can present the example of the main character Francis Underwood from the American web series, The House of Cards. He uses double crosses, blackmail, political stratagem, ruthlessness, murder and manipulation of media. Nothing stops him to rise to the topmost political position. He not only eschews the value of morality with his fellow party members but even with his wife.
Throughout the 73 episodes, this web series depicts the fact that morality in present politics has been eclipsed for power. The fictional world eerily reflects the real world. The recent phenomenon seen in the present world politics is the Sabbath of morality. Whatever helps one to achieve morality is politics and whatever helps to achieve the end is moral. But the question remains, can a democratic norm endure in the absence of moral values? If we believe morality a bedrock of democracy, it definitely will not.
The majority government of Nepal by now must have realised that power–even unchallenged power–is not enough. And personal popularity and charisma are not enough to govern a country. Thumping electoral victories are not enough. For had it been so, the country’s condition would not have been what it is today.
The most important thing for the government to run efficiently is the support of the general people. How much a politician needs the support of its people is described in every chapter of The Prince. Government accumulates support of the people with smooth delivery.
Meanwhile, in Nepal, a stark contrast can be found in the promise made by the government during the election and the reality afterwards. Dollar promised, penny delivered!
A situation has arisen in the country where on the one hand a myriad of problems are begging for solutions while on the other a medley of policies have become contentious.
However, the government is found indulging on the matters like extending the lease for Gokarna Forest Resort before the expiry of the current lease period which still has six more years. It is reported that the prime minister has a personal interest in doing so.
Prior to this, the government was forced to scrap ‘Guthi‘ bill. The bill tried to nationalise centuries-old religious trusts of Newar community and deprive them of ownership, culminating in cultural encroachment. The government had to scrap the bill due to public outcry and accusation of narrowing civil space and freedom.
These are few examples that depict the deceiving quality of the government towards the general public.
For Machiavelli deceit counts as one of the qualities of the leaders. He says, “Promise given was a necessity of the past and the word broken is the necessity of the present.”
The scribe feels that like most of the politicians in the world, Nepali politicos are anointed with Machiavellian thought when it comes to deceiving people. They would better read Machiavelli’s treatise in full as he clearly says that if the leadership fails to recognize, trust, value and encourage its citizens it will quickly lose the respect and support from the people.
Sycophants and apologists of the current regime may paint a rosy picture but impartial people see a dismal picture of the country with hardly any relieving features in the present leadership.
The writer is a freelancer.
Published on 12 January 2020