Monday, September 26, 2022

Ideological disarrays in Nepal: Growing frustration among people

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Political developments in Nepal since the 1990s have brought nothing but confusion, systemic disarrays, social depressions, and political polarization. No one needs to examine any hypotheses with qualitative and quantitative data applying mathematical models to state that agendas (manifestos) promised to people during the periodic general elections by competing political parties are rarely being implemented. Even the 2/3rd majority government between 2075 and 2078 BS and the current Nepali Supreme Court installed coalition government during its half year reign have shown no respites to the needy people though closest coteries are amassing enough nourishments from limited state resources.

If the wealth amassed by these coteries of power mongers are averaged transparently with the incomes of low incomes majority, probably, the per capita income of Nepali people would qualify to graduate Nepal’s status to less developed country. Unfortunately, the election slogans of reducing social and economic inequality, eliminating or minimizing corruption, eradication of poverty, housing and landownership programs for homeless and landless poor, quality education for all while making the law-and-order situation transparent, all go to a dust bin once election results are over. People who aspired to taste the fruits of democracy have been experiencing unbearable punch from spiky thorns of democracy. Simply put, this has been the major disarray in the ruling system since the 1990s.  

Who are responsible for this chaotic situation?

Excluding the residues of long-institutionalized palace centric reign of the active monarch prior to the 1990s, all political parties in general and the Communist Party of Nepal, United Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) and the Nepali Congress (NC) in particular, have been on the power since the 1990s. The populist election agendas without their implementation have contributed to the accumulation of tons of hatreds against the Nepali political parties. Hoping to revitalize the lost hopes and turning hatreds to centripetal forces through serious discourses, recently, major political parties have organized /organizing national conventions.

The CPN-UML and Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) have completed their national conventions with the establishment of their leaderships at different levels. As of writing this article, Nepal’s oldest Democratic Party, the NC, however, is busy in organizing its convention in Kathmandu to choose its leadership and formulate party’s principles. Political Scientist, Hari Sharma (2021), dissected the nitty-gritty of NC, and concluded that NC is putting a cart before the oxen at its ongoing 14th national convention. Other political parties such as the Maoist-Central, United Socialist, and the Tarai regional parties are also preparing for their national conventions. Through these conventions, political parties streamline their core principles and the modus operandi and make their leaderships responsible to implement their short-and-long-term parties’ principles while re-energizing their party cadres.

Through these conventions, political parties streamline their core principles and the modus operandi and make their leaderships responsible to implement their short-and-long-term parties’ principles while re-energizing their party cadres.

Well-seasoned political leaders/ scholars from all over the world gather in such conventions. Along with the good wishes from these seasoned foreigners, studious and creative political leaders present their political insights during the conventions to help guide the effective implementation of political agendas for the betterment of country, people, and international relationships. Despite all these mega attempts since the 1990s, why the Nepali people are in difficult living conditions with no hopes for the future. During the different functions, CPN-UML often portrays the pictures of foreign scholars such as Karl Marx and political leaders such as Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and other communist dictators despite posturing itself as a ultra-nationalistic party. However, NC which is often labelled by the communists as a party with weak nationalistic agendas, always uses the postures of its homemade political leaders and it claims that it follows the BP’s vision in its political framework.

What was BP Koirala’s vision?

Capitalism is unsustainable and communism is unworkable, thus, the only plausible solution for Nepal is the democratic socialism. Recent survey suggests that fewer than 20 percent of the total population has amassed over 56 percent of the total resources in Nepal through corruptions of limited national resources, but over 80 percent of the total population have difficult living conditions with a meagre hand-to-mouth income. This condition makes BP’s assertion of democratic socialism a plausible political ideology even today. Let me explain why Nepal’s situation has not been better as expected while many nation-states which are much younger than Nepal have been successful to improve the living conditions of their people. The CPN-UML and NC, despite so many opportunities, have failed to implement their fancy periodic electioneering slogans since the 1990s because of their ill-defined political stands (engines). Let me explain why they are ill-defined.

CPN-UML

The CPN-UML has a communist label. This label is not a political one but a cosmetic and analytical one. Indeed it has a Leninist party structure dreaming for totalitarianism under the pretext of socialism. To save the communist ideology from the ongoing domino effects in the 1990s with the collapse of the former USSR and crumbling down of the communist governments in the Eastern Europe, French Indochina, and Latin America, popular communist leader, Late Mandan Bhandari, coined the term Janatako Bahudaliya Janabad (Peoples’ Multiparty Democracy) abbreviated as JaBaJa.  

JaBaJa coupled with old age pension motives have enliven the CPN-UML. JaBaJa, old age pension, and ultra-nationalistic postures have helped CPN-UML to cling to power several times.  However, despite JaBaJa being the major backbone of the CPN-UML, even after three decades of its promulgation, CPN-UML has not been able to differentiate it from BP’s democratic socialism except for the two attempts made by the communist rules (2075-2078) to strictly regulate media like in China and Russia. BP’s democratic socialism never thought of press censorship, but JaBaJa made two failure attempts. Other than these attempts of press censorship, it is hard to see any difference between JaBaJa and BP’s democratic socialism, which makes JaBaJa an old wine in a new bottle. Does this mean, BP’s democratic socialism was a failure and thus, CPN-UML failed to bring any changes in the society despite having several opportunities to cling to power? To distinguish whether there is a fault in BP’s democratic socialism or fault in the modus operandi of CPN-UML for not being able to improve the overall conditions of Nepal, it requires further explanation. Let me take clear evidence from the three years ruling of the CPN-UML with almost 2/3 majority. 

Despite posturing JaBaJa, during the unilateral ruling with almost 2/3 majority from 2075 to 2078 BS, CPN-UML followed the Leninist structure in its modus operandi. The Leninist structure imagines having one party authoritarian system. This authoritarianism adapts a practice of nomenclature. Within this nomenclature, every appointment in governing systems, must be approved by the Communist Party based on the involvement of a person on that party irrespective of needed qualifications. Within CPN-UML, every organization operates within the party line. For example, bureaucracy, NGOs, educational institutions, military, police, judicial system, corporate bodies, banking system, hospital, medical organization, business, and private economy, all were subjected to operate within the CPN-UML’s party line between 2075 and 2078 BS. Fortunately, or unfortunately, Nepali judicial system had residual judges who were installed on the job before the communist nomenclature started. Because of the presence of these judges who were not obliged to operate within the CPN-UML party line, the recent judicial decision went outside the CPN-UML party line, and a government was installed by the decision of the Nepali Supreme Court without having popular votes.

Hurt from the decision of the Nepali Supreme Court, some CPN-UML Lawmakers have openly said that they would reappoint the judges to avoid such unfortunate situation once they win the elections so that the judges would work along the party line. Once the system of nomenclature is followed, the communist party and its selective coteries become rich by amassing resources from national treasure, but the country become poorer and poorer.  These beneficiaries can help party in organizing many popular events; for example, the much-hyped recent Chitwan national convention of the CPN-UML, which according to some CPN-UML leaders costed over Rs. 1000 million. Where did that money come from? Since CPN-UML operates within the Leninist structure, it will make the party and its followers richer, but the people who do not fall within the nomenclature of CPN-UML will not have access to resources until the time of CPN-UML remains in power. Every individual has experienced and seen these evidence and no one needs to test any hypotheses with complicated mathematical models. Since all appointees must be approved by the party, resources the appointee amass will remain within the party and party loyal and that circulates within the party making CPN-UML the richest party of a poor country. 

Totalitarianism, the eventual goal of the CPN-UML, undermines capitalism. Within the party, anti-capitalism, no compromise to Marxist philosophy becomes a popular slogan. Despite these debates, the global phenomena play inside the communist party, and the party cannot function without capitalism. Then to survive within the global phenomenon, several terminologies are coined to confuse people such as capitalism within the communistic culture for rapid economic development. Such definition makes it difficult to understand whether the capitalism is alleviated or ameliorated within the communist reign. Once private organizations start businesses, the communist reign is forced to liberalize its totalitarian structure.

Once the reign is liberalized, the communist structure becomes unstable. For example, the dissolution of the Nepali parliament twice despite having almost 2/3rd majority is a testament of communist failure. History has portrayed this evidence, for examples, the communist collapsed in Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, Mikhail Gorbachev’s Russia with Perestroika and Glasnost in the mid-1980s, Nicolas Moduro’s reign in Venezuela in 2015, and Raul Castro’s reign in Cuba in 2015. Once liberalized, communist party becomes fatal to its own organization. Moreover, greatest vulnerability comes from Marxists within the party blaming that communist has gone too far. For example, the current emerging fractions among the JaBaJa ideologues within the CPN-UML is another testament of communist failure. Monopoly (totalitarianism) proposition has no alternative for the survival of a communist reign, but liberalization becomes a compulsion due to geo-politico-economics of Nepal.

The current emerging fractions among the JaBaJa ideologues within the CPN-UML is another testament of communist failure. Monopoly (totalitarianism) proposition has no alternative for the survival of a communist reign, but liberalization becomes a compulsion due to geo-politico-economics of Nepal.

Liberalization within the communism has no option for economic growth. GDP grows due to the contributions of private sectors that include both foreign born and nation born entrepreneurs.  Even if the nation born entrepreneurs follow the party’s totalitarianism, the foreign-born entrepreneurs cannot function within the CPN-UMP’s Leninist structure. To facilitate the foreign-born entrepreneurs, liberalization becomes the must. However, once liberalized, it becomes a threat to CPN-UML. To control economy, party members are appointed in the board, banking sector, trade unions, and in many private sectors. Despite all these, a total control of private sector becomes almost impossible in the globalized era. There have been incidences in Nepal when the Leninist structured CPN-UML has faced crises. To divert such confusion, the ultranationalist ideas are thrown during the periodic elections. Since these ultranationalist ideas do not need any long-term and short-term plans and budgets and technological advancement, ultranationalism often becomes a powerful weapon of CPN-UML. However, overtime, these ultra-nationalistic postures also fade and become obsolete. Then, communist leaders take religious stand, otherwise, communism and religion do not go hand in hand.

In China and Russia, communist members can visit churches and mosques, but they must shun the party memberships to do so. Nepali communists, however, respect peoples’ sentiments and participate in religious activities. Therefore, my argument is that CPN-UML is a cosmetically labelled communist, but not a true communist like the Chinese or Russian Communist. Unless some magic is seen within the CPN-UML to streamline its political ideology, there is not much hope for sustainable development in Nepal from this CPN-UML because it is principally rudderless. It crumbles at the hands of private entrepreneurs and foreigners. It is too painful to state how foreign spies clandestinely penetrate to political center in the midnight and contributed to the derailment of the ultranationalist posture.

The Nepali Congress Party (NC):

If communism does not work in Nepal, do people have an option to count on the Nepali Congress Party (NC). Unfortunately, the conditions of NC, the only challenger of the CPN-UML, is also not firm in its ideology. Though it argues that it follows BP ideology, as Political Scientist, Hari Sharma (2021) writes, NC’s political backbone also needs to be conscientiously worked out to make it workable. At present, it is also rudderless like the CPN-UML is.  

Nepali Congress Party has a long history. At the start, the Nepali Congress party was formed to end the tyrannic rule of the Rana.  Informal organization of the NC started from 1992 BS. In 1997 BS, when Ganga Lal Shrestha, Dharma Bhakta Mathema, Sukraraj Shshtri, and Dasharath Chand were assassinated by the Rana rulers sparing Mr. Tanka Prasad Acharya (for being a Brahmin), BP Koirala actively called upon everyone to participate and garner support from inside and outside to rise against the Rana regime. Since then, the NC party was built through serious political discourses and national conventions. Table below provides the chronological development of the NC.

Year (BS)

Convention Venue

Activities/Resolutions passed

2003

Benaras

All India Rastriya Nepali Congress was established.

2003

Calcutta

(Kolkata)

Emphasis was on the need for an arm revolution in Nepal to overthrow the Rana reign and work for the ideological foundation of the party.

2005

Darbhanga

It was time of free India movement and to learn lesson from India to strategies revolution in Nepal to overthrow the Rana reign.

2006

Calcutta

This convention discussed about the Nepali diaspora in Burma and India, Nepal’s economic conditions, how to release jailed political activities from the Nepali jails. Also, discussions were held on the welfare of the young Nepali deployed in British military in Malaya peninsula. This convention also was related to the unification of the Nepali Rastriya Congress and Nepal Prajatantra Congress.

2009

Janakpur

Mainly focused on the industrial and foreign policy issues.

2012

Birgunj

Declared socialistic democratic agenda; land ownership; offering services of moving courts for those who are deprived of justices. Also discussions were held on how to resolve the tenuous relationships between landlord and peasants, custom duty, nationalization of forest. Additionally, there were 18 different proposals that were passed at this convention.

2017

Kathmandu

Continuation with the agenda of the Birgunj’s convention because King Mahendra banned all the political parties in 2017. The NC Party became an underground organization. 

2048

Kalbalgudhi, Jhapa

It was the first convention after the multiparty democracy in Nepal. It passed several political resolutions including the resolution on agriculture and international relations. 

2053

Pokhara

The major focus was on open economy, privatization, self-employment, and foreign policy.

2057

Pokhara

It continued with the agendas of previous convention with the addition of foreign direct investment, free education up to high school level, and landownership and housing.

2062

Kathmandu

The focus was how to solve the Maoist problem, the structure of the constitutional assembly and about the fate of the monarchial system. It also discussed the issues of Dalits and Janajati, Madheshi, and how to implement the reserved quotas in different sectors.

2067

Kathmandu

The major focus was on the unification between NC and Democratic Congress. This conference also passed a resolution that would directly elect a party’s general secretary.

2072

Kathmandu

The major focus was on the implementation of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nepal and restructuring the party organization according to the new political structure of Nepal.

2078

Kathmandu

???

What is the solution?

The CPN-UML has a massive grassroot support, but ideologically, it is operating in a vacuum. It’s wishy-washy policies sometime embracing totalitarianism and sometime capitalism and socialism does not provide a strong base for long-term economic development of Nepal. Often foreign investors often suspect the totalitarian approach of the party. If the economic system operates without any upheavals, CPN-UML can function as an active and effective development driver. However, when there are changes in the global economies, which are inevitable, the wishy-washy policies of CPN-UML weaken Nepal’s nationalism no matter how out loud its political leader project themselves as ultranationalists.  NC on the other hand has its historic foundation of democratic socialism, but it must not be a pendulum of coalition partners. Rather, it may remain out of power, if need be, to save party’s principle.

If CPN-UML becomes clear in its ideology, socialism may help bridge between capitalism and communism. The communist slogans of equal access to resources, capitalism as enemy of CPN-UML are totally illogical. Pleading for egalitarian society is fine but CPN-UML must learn to operate within the full democratic system without any media censorship. CPN-UML must be able to explain what JaBaJa is and how does it differ from BP’s democratic socialism. If there is no difference between BP’s democratic socialism and JaBaJa, why not to make common development agendas for the betterment of Nepal. Since socialism is designed to operate within the democratic environment, CPN-UML must shun its Leninist structure of nomenclature. The nomenclature practice makes the party richer by draining limited resource from the national coffer. Likewise, NC must operate within its agenda but not at the agendas of the coalition partners to ascend to power.

Since the 1990s, the political parties have failed to offer meaningful benefits to voters, for one reason or another. Parties are also largely failing democracy, and, in many instances, they are disconnected with citizens. As a result, despite the political parties continue to make an important contribution to the functioning of democracy, their activities are less appreciated for what they do because they have been failing to provide meaningful opportunities to people. Democracy does not yield fruits until citizens have opportunities to have their shared interests as members of a community. A 2/3rd majority government of the Communist Party (2075-2078) collapsed because of the lack of firm political principle. Political leaders become disconnected from those they are supposed to serve. The people with access to high-ranking political leaders have most directly benefited from the spread of affluence. Their expectations have increased, but the parties have failed to deliver public services. Improvements are needed in the modus operandi of political parties.

Bhattarai is a Professor of Geography at University of Central Missouri, USA. He can be reached at [email protected]

Published on 12 December 2021

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