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Politics As Seen in the Field

- By C. D. Bhatta

Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) – A German Political Foundation with the help of German Foreign Ministry is organizing series of training seminars in different parts of the country on democracy, civic and voter's rights. FES has conducted such trainings in Pokhara, Palpa, Butwal, Gorkha, Hetauda, Chitwan, Dadeldhura, Kanchanpur, Surkeht and Nepalgunj with real stakeholders of society on board.

What has become crystal clear from the field is that the pace of society is moving fast and our political leaders are retreating. People at the grass root level are politically more conscious than Kathmanduities would expect. For example in Dadeldhura and Kanchanpur the trainees were more concerned about political philosophy, class struggle, crisis in capitalism and socialism, crisis in imperialism (American) and Communism, the rise of global imperialism (of multilateral organizations), the nature of civil society, globalisation and ways to defend nation-states, particularly small states like Nepal from the negative phenomenon of globalisation.

These questions, perhaps, are much relevant to balance global order, however, participants argued that since Nepali internal politics is influenced by the factors that promote global imbalances and being part of the global order (social/political/economic) we can only straighten internal problems when we collectively work at the national level. Similarly citizens at the local level are concerned about eroding capacity of the state, particularly its inability to maintain internal sovereignty due to challenges posed by the rising numbers of non-state-actors.

Moreover citizens at the grass root level have also demanded clear definition of various political terminologies such as loktantra, samabesi loktantra, and state restructuring which are haphazardly being thrown out by intellectuals as well as professional politicians in the market. Such an attempt has merely created confusion on the very content of democracy which might invite further conflict in society.

Likewise there was a great deal of concern as what type of policies (economic, education) should Nepal need to craft so as to reduce rising unemployment in the country which is contributing towards mass alienation of youths from the institutional life of the state and degenerating confidence building measures in society. Locales also enquired ways to reduce conflicts which are now more society centric than state centric. Overall, they demanded democratic political culture in the country primarily at the paraphernalia of ruling class who still do not command public trust. They feared unless civic political culture is not introduced across political parties and their leaders we can not expect much from the recent political achievement.

Another important question that was raised was on genuine need to strike a balance between 'rights and duties, freedom and order' in society. Perhaps, Nepali state needs ample cooperation from all strata of society and political actors should come up with 'common consensus' on basic political needs of the state and integrate all conflicting actors (including potential and left-out) in the political process.

That said the great deal of responsibility falls on political actors who aspire for the change. In Nepali context it’s the responsibility of eight political parties to integrate other political as well as societal actors (left out and potential) into the decision making process so that other dissident groups do not evolve.

The latest political changes have granted many rights to Nepali citizens, which were otherwise denied, but subsequent inability of the state to guarantee these rights is pushing new found political opportunity on the verge of collapse. This is primarily because many non-state-actors have emerged and they are demanding too much from the state. But it is not possible for a country like Nepal. Neither can we opt for 'revolutionary step' when we have limited resources at our disposal, said Dev Raj Dahal – a noted political scientist as this will further weaken Nepali state.
What is also clear from the field is that the real stakeholders of the society are more concerned about managing internal security (by addressing the genuine demands of various groups), adoption of efficient foreign policy by Nepali state, speed up democratisation process (by holding CA election in time), instill civic political culture in society, craft efficient policies in every sectors of governance and generate opportunities for youths so that they become more loyal to the state. However, it seems that we are still not working in this direction. The eight political parties have their different approaches on foreign policy and other issues of national importance. This mismatch between political parties, their leaders and real stakeholder of the society is pushing Nepal towards political uncertainty.

What is also evident from the field is that there is great deal of nationalistic democratic sentiment running across in society. Nepalis have great faith on democracy but we cannot bear to have further cycles of political movements in the country. Hence political parties should manipulate historic opportunity for the interest of Nepali people and Nepali state. To reduce class and societal struggle or conflict – perhaps we need to introduce social justice (through social democracy) in a real sense which will certainly minimise the level of class conflict. Equally important is to access the individual class character of political leaders across political parties including leftists who champion for this cause. The need of the hour is to substitute 'class struggle with class coordination'.

Finally, the greatest challenge for Nepali state is to develop people centric policies to garner public loyalty towards state and legitimate political actors rather than towards non-state actors. If the public loyalty diverts towards non-state-actors, nation-state automatically loses their internal sovereignty. Perhaps it is right time for Nepali leadership to think in this direction. All said, our society and citizens should also be able to guide leadership in a way that they talk more about policies (rather than scanty speeches) and are accountable to citizens at large (rather than political parties).

Note: This article was published in The Rising Nepal (13 August 2007)

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