Nepal’s Political Solution: Out of Box Thinking
Shiv Om Rana, Ph D
Samuel P. Huntington wrote in 1970 that there are two identifiable important stages in the modernization of feudalistic traditional system. He writes, “The first challenge of modernization to a dispersed, weakly articulated and organized, feudalistic traditional system is to concentrate the power necessary to produce changes in traditional society and economy. The second problem is then, to expand the power in the system to assimilate the newly mobilized and politically participant groups, thus creating a modern system. The monarchy following the ancient form is generally not an active and interventionist and is content with collection of taxes and maintenance of law and order.”
On the contrary, Dr DL Seth writes in his book “State, Nation and Ethnicity: Experience of the Third World Countries”. The modern state’s expanding power penetrates almost every vital sphere of social life including education, culture and mass media, which are directly relevant to the production of state nationalism.”
Having seen Nepal’s tryst with democracy, it becomes quite evident that Nepal did not go through the stages as suggested by Samuel P. Huntington from being a monarchy to democracy. It alternated from being monarchy to full blown multi party democracy between 1951 and 2008. I do hope that the democracy will last now. Although there are yet murmurs for return of monarchy in Nepal. Why has Nepal fallen prey to such extremes, from people’s reverence to the monarchy at one end to the other extreme of dethroning the monarchy and bringing in the governance by the people and for the people? Why did democracy fail in earlier occasions in 1951 and 1990? Seeing what is happening now with the political parties and having seen the change of the Prime Minister in the short span of time post 2008 election, there is a doubt in the mind, whether even this chance will last for the people to say this is people’s government. Each party is trying to defend its turf over the national interest and that is the reason why the pro-monarchy group sees a chance to make a comeback.
Let us now examine what went wrong in all those occasions when the democracy had a chance to prevail in the country. Can we learn from history and find a solution for the third opportunity to succeed?
The nation needs matured and experienced leaders and relatively educated population for the democracy to succeed. Sir Winston Churchill was against granting full democracy to India. His plea to the parliament was that India and Indians were not ready to absorb and fully participate in the democratic system. His assessment might have been based on the general perception of the country at that time which did not have a good rate of literacy, yet he missed an important aspect of governance and that was the matured and experienced leadership of India in the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Sardar Ballabh Bhai Patel, Maulana Azad Kalam and many more leaders who had been leading the movement for independence of India. Also India was exposed to partial democracy when they held elections for various State Councils in 1946. So India was ready with multi party democracy with its matured leaders.
Nepal’s foray into democracy did not have that advantage in 1951. The leaders were those who had seen and learnt the lessons of democracy from India. They did not have the leaders who had international exposure in diplomacy even in the subsequent brush with the democracy in 1990, nor did it go through the suggested two stages of graduation from monarchy to democracy. (Samuel P. Huntington) The results were catastrophic in previous two occasions and one is not too sure of the result after 2008.
But history alone is an inefficient teacher and a guide. The world has changed since the time of Samuel P. Huntington. Lots of time and space can be telescoped in the present day world with the help of electronic means and gadgets. There are no boundaries limiting the learning for those who wish to learn. Therefore it is very important that the leaders of Nepal rise themselves to the higher form of leadership, governance and diplomacy. The leaders of Nepal failed the people of Nepal because of their inadequacy for governance. Most of the leaders follow blindly the Indian (UK) model of democracy without the requisite wherewithal and statesmanship required of leaders. They have tried to follow multi party system of democracy whenever the chance was afforded to them.
If Nepal wants democracy to succeed, the leaders, therefore, need to think “Out of Box” solution. The repetition of the same shall not work. This is the time when the Constituent Assembly has been mandated to write new constitution for the country, that it must provide a solution which should last, should work for the people and empower every aspect of human development and economic growth. If the chance is lost, Nepal will be pushed back 200 years from where recovery may be near impossible.
Think of seventies of the last century, when Nepal was enjoying a new place in the sun. It was a time of “Hare Rama Hare Krishna”. Foreigners were thronging Nepal, a new found Shangri-La from the materialistic world of West. Tourists were competing to be in Nepal which brought prosperity and foreign aid was pouring in. Economy was looking up. All was lost because of few misguided and ill advised sons of soil.
Multi party system of democracy has failed Nepal multiple times and it is doing so even now after the 2008 elections. Every time the Prime Minister of Nepal was forced to resign for extraneous considerations, it was a slap in the face of democracy. Imagine 13 Prime Ministers in about 15 years thereby giving just about one year for each of the Prime Minister. Can anybody in right frame of mind think any development in such situation? 25 political parties for a small nation with population of just about three crores? Every party has its regional interest and therefore they do not support the national agenda. In fact there is no national agenda and therefore there is no progress in any front or field except to defend its own interest and turf. Yet these parties can cripple the smooth flow of national routine by calling “Bandhs” and “Strikes” making the people and the country hostage for their small and partisan interests.
If the multi party system has not worked and we still want to have democracy, then the answer lies in adopting “Two Party” system of democracy. Elect your government which will have its fixed term with no fear of being toppled. It can then concentrate in the nation building, empowering its people, rather than trying to manage coalition partners to survive another day. The Chief Executive of the nation will have only one agenda and that is to take the nation forward in the comity of nations. With the stable nation, economic growth will be ensured, international aid will be more willingly coming in, tourists will begin to seek their destination in Nepal and, God willing, the nation will empower its people in the international human index.
There are more pros than cons in two party democracy and governance. Here are some of the advantages of the two party system of democracy over the multi party system.
ü Two party system will have nationwide reach and appeal and support for either party. Multi party system tends to encourage regionalism.
ü The Govt formed from the two party system will be quite stable and predictable. As the parties will have to make their national agenda quite clear before the election.
ü With two party system one is sure that the candidate who wins almost always has a majority of the votes. In a multi party system a candidate can be elected even though voted by a small minority.
ü In two party system both the parties will have to align the population to their thinking and ideology thereby making both the parties to be moderate and better able to rule.
ü A two party system prevents the inequities of split voting. For example, suppose there are two Communist party candidates and a Nepali Congress. Two communist candidates will divide the communist votes, and therefore a Nepali Congress candidate may win, even though most voters are communists.
ü It will be easier for the voters to choose a candidate in two party system, especially when still a large number of voters do not have adequate education level to distinguish from the long list of candidates.
ü Two party system will create a very strong “Opposition Party” which is very essential in a functional democracy.
ü Control of election expenditure will be easier with two parties and therefore less corruption.
Keeping in mind all the arguments given above, it is evident in my opinion that Nepal needs to adopt a “Two party” democratic system of governance. If there are still reservations in two party system of democracy for Nepal, the “Constituent Assembly” mandated to write the Constitution for Nepal can add review of the system after 20 or 30 years of its existence. By that time the benefit of education, health and economic development of two party system would have percolated to most citizens of the country. That is the time when the people of Nepal will be more capable and adequate in making decision to choose right leaders and the system of governance, be it two party system or multi party system of democracy.
Let there be a prominent Communist party to occupy one hemisphere of political niche in one hand and let there be one on the right of the centre, or the extreme right on the other hand. I say this because to me it looks that presently people of Nepal are very inclined to communist ideology. Another party can be Nepali Congress or any other which has a large support base. Let the people of the country whom they want to rule decide and decide for the full term. Let there be no doubt in the minds of the leaders or the general public as to which side the country is going. Avoid confusion. Respect the verdict of the people once for all and for the full term of the Government.
PS: How to make “Two Party” system work and its nitty-gritty will be discussed in another article thread-bare. Idea in this article is to just shake up the minds of the right thinking people to do something which works and takes the country to the higher level of development of its people and economy.
Note: The author is an ex army officer of the Indian Army who had the fortune to host Late King Birendra and Late Queen Aishwarya to breakfast in 1998 at Joshimath, Uttarakhand, when he was the Commander of the Station. The King and the Queen were on their visit to Kedarnath and Badrinath to pay their obeisance. They could go to Kedarnath but could not go to Badrinath because of bad weather due to which their helicopter could not fly.
To learn and never be filled, is wisdom; to teach and never be weary, is love.