I am not a political analyst. Nor I have an in-depth understanding of the inner modus operandi of politics in Nepal. However, I feel that Nepal’s recent political development is unique by historical standards and offer some meaningful positive lessons. This unprecedented political development in Nepal has prompted me to write this blog. Readers please note that these are my personal observations and I may be completely wrong in my analysis.
The emergence of political …
understanding from ideologically diverse and conflicting political parties to reach consensus for peace is quite laudable. As a result of this common consensus among major political parties and the warring Maoists, the historic promulgation of the interim constitution has materialized and has brought some jubilation and sense of hope to the Nepalese people at home and abroad. For Nepal’s Maoists in the 21st century, no achievements will ever equal this one. In less than a year, the Maoists emerged out from the shadows of the jungle, joined the mainstream politics, and finally secured major seats in the interim parliament through bargain with major alliances. Few years ago, CK Lal, a columnist for Nepali Times/Himal Khabarpatrika, labeled Nepal’s Maoists with a catchy title calling them “political entrepreneurs”. These “political entrepreneurs” have, rightly or wrongly, secured status of a major political party in Nepal. The Maoists have gained, at least for now, political legitimacy through barrel of the guns, not by ballot of the box. Their popularity will be tested in future elections. There are skeptics, however, who feel that if free and fair elections are held in the future, the Maoists will not secure as many seats in the parliament as they have today in the interim parliament. It will be premature to judge the future outcome based on the present tumultuous situation.
Keeping aside these issues, an interesting and important observation can be drawn from this historical political consensus. It seems that Nepal’s political parties are experiencing for the first time, an emergence of middle ground politics. In any matured democratic system, amidst numerous inherent conflicting interests and ideologies existing among the political parties, political representatives seek to forge a common ground that best serves the interest of all participants in the society. Most of these middle ground consensuses are often achieved by looking at facts and pragmatism, not always on political ideologies. The recent political development in Nepal seems to have similar bearings. Despite some differences, which are norm in any democratic system, nearly all major political parties and many segments of our society have come together for a common cause to solve the greatest political and social turmoil of our time. This phenomenon in Nepal’s politics, I believe, has some semblance of common ground politics. In many occasions in the past, political parties in Nepal had forged such alliances and consensus for a common cause. Sadly, the spirit of such consensus faded with constant political bickering within and among the political parties. However, the recent development in political consensus is unique in Nepal’s historical context. To put this into a more formal and scientific perspective, economics game theory can be applied to understand recent political developments in Nepal where each participating parties used their best strategies to obtain maximum political gains. In game theory, the relationships of participating parties can be competitive or cooperative. In our case, the relationship between political parties and rebellious faction seemed to be both competitive and cooperative. Who gained (or lose) more in this cooperative consensus is for the future to judge.
Nonetheless, some pressing questions still linger; Is Nepal’s middle ground political achievement based on shared aspirations and beliefs, political and moral imperatives, or is it merely an outcome of fear from the Maoist? If the middle ground political consensus was achieved not due to the latter cause, then there is a room for optimism that Nepali politicians are learning to get into middle ground politics. If we can achieve middle ground consensus on an issue of this magnitude, so can we in other issues of reforms in education, infrastructure, economy, and institutional quality and governance. Our leaders can apply the same valuable principles that were applied in forging political consensus to resolve the Maoist armed conflict into our future national issues on social and economic development.
That said, it is too early to judge whether this event will set a good precedence in Nepal’s political and socio landscape. There are plethora of reasons for us to be skeptics. The underlying ills besetting Nepal’s politics are lack of moral standards and sense of responsibility among politicians and their leaders. Will our astoundingly diverse caste of characters in new government mend their acts by doing all the right things from now on in Nepal’s new political settings? To our dismay, these are the same old faces in the new administration who until recently grossly mismanaged our institutions and governance. These are the same ideologues without any ideology who until recently bickered endlessly for political power and brought our country to ruin. The past sixteen years have clearly revealed the true character of our politicians and leaders. They have a history of betraying people’s mandates and aspirations. They have tendency to collude and polarize not for principle, not for genuine cause, not for issues of national interest, but for their own personal gains. Our political culture needs a total change and it can be done with firm resolve of our politicians and leaders. All in all, I observe an emergence of common ground politics in Nepal. This spirit of middle ground politics should be kept alive and applied whenever and wherever possible in an important future economic, social, and political issues facing Nepal.