Monday, 30 May 2011

Why so negative about politics?

The contemporary Nepali society and news media is most of the times full of passionate debate about politics. While having a healthy discussion is affirmative, signs of fatigue from talking and reading about politics all the time has become prevalent. Such fatigue might save us from the immediate headache but we might be fast heading towards heartache by ignoring this topic at all.

The attempt here is focused on reflecting and discussing my own observations of Nepali politics. I refrain here from ranting about our politicians and political mismanagement. Rather, I am choosing to focus on what I consider as the attributes of good leadership and better democratic political process. This article is not about coming up with the elusive solution to all our problems. I have deliberately asked many open-ended questions without providing many answers. By doing so, I intend to leave my valued readers to seek their own answers. Readers would appreciate that it is a super-brief account about a topic that could easily be someone’s lifetime career yet barely scratch the surface.

The Question
The question I asked myself before I started this thought piece was “Why are there so much negative feelings whenever we discuss Nepali politics”?

The answer, in my view, is because we know democracy can deliver so much more than what we are getting today. Things need not be in the sorry state as they are. There are so much more we can achieve as a democratic nation. Democracy is a platform that offers society better opportunities to its people’s life. Unfortunately, the people of Nepal have not been able to benefit from this proven workable political system.

A leader always strives to do the right thing; chooses the right way at the time of crisis. Outcome of an action depends on multiple factors other than solely on a leader's act. However, a leader’s right action will go a long way to bring about a favorable outcome. One may rightly argue that right or wrong is subjective. Right attributes stand on a strong foundation of universal principles such as responsibility, accountability, respect, honesty, compassion, fairness and so on. Actions based on such principles will stand the test of time against those based on ad hoc personal and parochial interests. Time, situation and people change; these principles remain constantly valid. How many of our leaders how often display such principled characteristics? Do we practice these behaviors in our lives; are we leading our own life based on such sound principles?

Democracy 101
It seems that we are yet to understand the fundamental concepts of democracy. Nepal has been experimenting with variants of parliamentary democracy for more than half a century since the popular movement of 2007 BS. Unfortunately, over the past sixty years people’s lives and the nation’s situation have gotten bad to worse so often. Questions have been time and again raised on the very suitability of the democratic system as a governing model for the country.

Our lack of success with democratic system could well be stemming from the fact that we do not know how to best use it for our purpose. The secret of a successful democracy greatly lies with a rigorous and robust process! The guardians of the process are accountable exclusively to the public. That’s why it is “for the people” system. You deviate from this process; you erode the democratic system’s very credibility – more the skewness; greater the fall from grace.

One of the fundamental elements in a democratic process is public engagement, which is at the heart of good democratic practice. Involvement of the public at the grass-root is what makes democracy an inclusive true “for the people” system. This is how meaningful long-term relationships are built, mutual trust is won and partnerships are found between the leadership and the citizens. It is not an easy job but there are ways to successfully manage this sensitive government-public interface. Are we aware of the need, essence and power of public engagement for a successful functioning of democracy?

Another basic reason the democratic political process works is because everyone plays by the rule. No one is above the rule of law. Everyone, politicians and citizens, agree to a set of rules; they abide by it. Is our contemporary politics based on rule of law or that on intimidation?

Who’s Fault?
The guardians of the achievements of popular movements failed miserably to deliver any substantial respite to the people who gave their blood, sweat and tears in anticipation of some sort of change. Whose fault is it that six decade since 2007BS of democratic exercise has yielded to virtually nothing towards forwarding the society in the right direction? Whenever this question is asked, it seems everyone passes the blame on someone else.

The most favorite seems to blame it on the system – “this is the system’s fault”, “the system is corrupt”…. Is it really so? System is a set of philosophy, principles and rules people pledge to abide by. When someone does not abide by the rule, how come it is the fault of the system? We should know by now that it is the people with crook mentality, ill intentions and selfish actions who are the culprits. If we do not change the way we do things, no system can save us. What have we personally done so far to correct the elements that have betrayed our democracy and the broader society? Are we, the concerned citizens, aware of our own role and power in democratic practice?

The general public has some responsibility to not always blame it all on the leadership. They are also accountable as leadership and public are two sides of the same coin. After all it is the public who make leaders. It is the public who propel the leaders in power – be it by daring to bare their chest in front of the guns or be it by casting their ballot. We elect our representatives because citizens cannot all the time get involve in politics. We hand over the responsibility of governing by electing our representatives. But the tragedy is in the talent of deceit of our representatives. We have time and again seen that once elected, they are only interested in benefits of running the administration but completely forget their responsibility toward governance. Do we not have choices but to helplessly endure the pain of broken promises? Why do we so easily forgive their betrayal of this colossal proportion? Are we going to do something about this repetitive cycle of disloyalty? Do we have some responsibility towards and control of our own destiny and that of the nation?

It is the people who run a system. Democracy is the best governing system the world has today. It has worked successfully elsewhere but in Nepal begs us to concur that we have not properly run the machinery. When democracy fails people suffer. Citizens are the sufferers of mismanagement of democracy in our nation. It is time we bring our train of democracy in the right track. To do so the citizens of this nation, leadership and general public both, should start to self reflect, analyze and ask the right questions about their role in what is happening today and what is possible tomorrow. We will get right answers only if we ask the right questions.

End note:
Your comments and feedback are welcome.
I have been away from Nepal for almost a decade now. I currently live in Auckland. I have so far been back to Nepal at least once every two years. My views of Nepali politics is therefore, if you like, that of an expat's. I may be far from home but yo man ta mero Nepali ho!
This article may be reproduced with acknowledging the author, and sending him a copy or link afterwards. I may be reached at

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