Thursday, January 28, 2021

Political stability in Nepal is like chasing the mirage


After the disbanding of House of Representatives (HoR) by the Prime Minister KP Oli, the four-member Chinese delegation that had arrived on a four-day Nepal visit on Sunday to take stock about the dichotomy in Nepal Communist Party (NCP) returned to Beijing on Wednesday.

The Chinese delegation was here to understand the political developments, especially after the virtual split (yet to be formally announced) of the NCP. The team has returned home after assessing that the political turmoil in Nepal in general and in the NCP in particular has just begun and it would be too early to calculate how long the quarrel will last.

The factionalism in the ruling party has jeopardized the hope of political stability in Nepal. When it comes to political instability, Nepal can be rated as one of the most volatile states in South Asia. With the end of the isolation policy and exposure to the modern world in 1950, Nepal has witnessed frequent and rapid changes in the government.

If we consider 1950 as the departure point for modern Nepal, many political changes took place in Nepal in quick succession after that cutoff date. The end of the 104-year old oligarchy Rana rule in 1951 introduced parliamentary system which lasted until 1960. That period witnessed eight different governments.

The one party Panchayat system that followed from 1960 to 1990 had 15 different governments. After the constitution of 1990 to first ever constituent assembly in 2008, Nepal observed 16 governments. Since 2008 Nepal has got 10 various governments till date.

It shows that there is no atmosphere of political stability in Nepal for the last 70 years. Leaders' self-centered thinking may not be the only reason for this instability but personal ego of politicians has interfered with political process all too often.

The new political system that came with the new Constitution has not brought political stability. Promoters of the Constitution did not tire of claiming that the statute will facilitate an environment of stability but they themselves have patronized instability.

Although the Communist Party won nearly two-thirds majority after the 2017 elections fought on the plank of stability, the party has all but split due to the power struggle between the leaders. Keeping the elections in center, there was a working unity between the two communist parties which ultimately led to party unification in 2018.

However, these two communist parties had starkly different policy positions regarding Nepal’s most pressing issues. This also indicates that (internal/external) force/s having a role to unite them made an error. It won't be wrong to say that the force did not acknowledge geopolitics of Nepal.

If it is to be believed that external forces had a hand in uniting the then two communist parties, then there is a basis to believe extrinsic role in its splitting. But this may not be the only reason for fissure. There obviously is an internal factor as all communist parties in Nepal were only in name. The kind of activities they carried out may even spell the end of communist movement in Nepal. Insiders say that the Chinese delegation that just wrapped up their Nepal visit has warned about the same. 

Having said that, the failure of one political movement or campaign is not the problem as it could be reignited. The biggest threat to Nepal and its democracy is the chronic instability and everlasting game of thrones among power mongers of various parties.

Such power struggles have toppled every government of Nepal since 1950.  Most of the governments were in power for less than a year, making far-reaching political and economic reform impossible.

One of the reasons for the instability of Nepal's politics is to seek the goodwill of foreigners in internal affairs.

Foreign power should not be used for internal power accumulation. Ironically, the ruling elites of Nepal are often accused of concentrating on exogenous factors to elevate to the post. Leaders do not hesitate to make any kind of agreement with external powers for personal benefits. But once out of power they spread illusions among common people that the country has deteriorated due to the intimidation from foreigners. Therefore, sometime it feels like even though foreign policy is an extension of domestic policy, in Nepal's case the expanded form of our foreign policy is our internal policy.

In the realist world, foreign powers try to meddle in the internal matters of other countries which is natural to some extent. It is up to the individual country to give them a space to play or not. In this instance our leaders have repeatedly failed. Having a realist approach in domestic politics, Nepal can expect an idealistic approach in foreign relations but that may not be rational.

Every geopolitics has its own langue and parole which ought to be followed to remain relevant in the system. Not being able to follow that, our geopolitical situation has become more of a curse than a boon. Our ancestors had shown their successful statesmanship and the current political leaders need to show a serious willpower to navigate through treacherous geopolitical waters.

To the contrary, till date our present leaders seem not to understand the basic grammar of country's geopolitics. Statesman like BP Koirala would induce a policy of national reconciliation. To our greatest dismay, current leaders have made geopolitics as the fulcrum to fulfill their power aspirations.  

The then Prime Minister Sushil Koirala had understood the geopolitical compulsion of Nepal. It possibly can be the reason he reportedly had proposed to hold proclamation of the new constitution in 2015. Chairman of then CPN-UML and Prime Minister-in-waiting KP Sharma Oli had flatly denied (justified as a need of the time) that proposal.

Madheshis questioned the validity of the Constitution claiming it does not address their certain grievances. But Oli was most eager to promulgate the Constitution. The person who was in a hurry to declare the Constitution has disbanded the parliament by attacking the essence of the same Constitution within five years of its promulgation. The Constitution, which remains a social contract between state and people, has been violated with the disbandment of HoR.

If there is any similarity in the two courses of these incidents, it's Oli's anxiety. In both the circumstances his moves were to keep power intact. The person who misinterprets the constitution for the sake of power can barter nationalism and sovereignty to keep himself in power.

Can we say with certainty that he hasn't entered into any transactional agreement with the military and judiciary for the disruption that he has caused in Nepali politics?

Published on 31 December 2020