Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Act responsibly

After the Constituent Assembly (CA) elections on 10th of April, Nepali politics will take a new direction. Hopefully, the Maoist party that has been sending conflicting signals about accepting the people's verdict will exhibit some political maturity and decency even if it fails to cruise to thumping victory. If nothing, a lesson that they can take home at the end of the day is that ballots can bring political change faster than bullets. Who knows how long it would have taken, or for that matter, if it was even possible for the Maoist party to overthrow monarchy that had a cozy relationship with professional military through a classic guerrilla hit-and-run tactics.

There is no doubt that violence has served as a springboard for the Maoists to get where they are today but by rejecting CA election results (if they actually do so) the Maoists will be forcing Nepali people to think whether the Maoists' demand for CA polls was a sincere attempt towards empowering the poor and downtrodden masses of Nepal or tactical ploy to lure innocent Nepali people that are yet to experience the trickle down effects of the developmental aid pouring into the country for the last five decades or so.

There is no doubt that the Maoists spearheaded the demand for the republic. But the senseless acts of violence, which the Maoist cadres actually never gave up in the last two years even after signing fifty plus agreements, clearly shows that there is a substantial difference between the kind of republic that the people want and the Maoists cherish for. The people, for sure, do not want a type of republic whereby candidates contesting elections get beaten black and blue by the cadres of brainwashed, irrational, and intolerant Young Communist League. If the Maoists really think it is the most trusted party, then they have even bigger responsibility of delivering what people want: peace, democracy, and prosperity.

The people want real peace, not the false sense of security that Kim Jong-Il has been providing his hapless subjects in North Korea. They want a true democratic state whereby every single individual has a right to float a new political party or contest elections fearlessly, not the one where the party at the helm of affairs decides who is progressive, and hence, worthy enough to contest elections.

Peace and democracy alone will not be enough to contend people for long. If we look back, it becomes evident that, the mass-democratic movements of the eighties that swept the developing world were essentially based on bread and butter and local issues such as electricity, water, and low wages. Unless the political transformation that took place in the last two years brings about socio-economic transformation, neither long lasting peace nor democratic consolidation is possible in Nepal. It is socio-economic transformation, like ocean currents deep below the hurricane-tormented surface of the sea that will have the lasting and permanent effect, when it comes to establishing a largely peaceful democratic state. Failure to bring socio-economic changes will once again force people to rebel; however, the next revolution in Nepal will be against economic apartheid.

As far as the major political parties that have been participating in the democratic exercises of the last two decades are concerned, they have even a greater role to play. They have a solemn duty to show to the people that they are actually capable of bringing peace through the moderation of the Maoists, which they promised will happen eventually, or else it will become clear that the democrats failed to understand the Maoists' ploy of using democrats as "useful idiots" in order to leapfrog to a higher level of the Maoist revolution pyramid.

In addition, the major political parties will have to counter the utopian dreams of equality that the hardcore left sells to woo people in its favor with programs that produce real tangible results if they want to survive politically. They got to prove that they are actually capable of delivering the results. Failure to do so will not only embolden the footings of the Maoists but will also open up a space for another set of radicals to pursue a dream of a perpetual revolution whatever the costs.

The last one and half decades of the Maoist insurgency and the last one year of ethnic dissent are to some extent results of weak performances of the major political parties in terms of social and political integration. Due to lack of internal democracy within political parties, the leaders with vision and actual problem solving abilities never got a chance to come to the forefront. Hopefully, with the onset of a new dawn, intra-party democracy will take root, which is absolutely important for an emergence of competent leadership that can replace the older folks, who tend to have the years they spent in jail fighting for democracy as the only credible credential, which in the real world of performance-based politics is not worth even a penny.

For how long should one's actual potential to deliver tangible results be waived for the years s/he spent in prison fighting for democracy? Shouldn't it stop at some point? What could be better time than now when we are making a fresh start to build a new Nepal?

The challenge of creating a "New Nepal" requires a vision and sacrifices on part of the political leadership. The abolishment of monarchy is the first step in the process of dismantling feudal structures and creating an equal society. With that taken care of, the real challenge will be to ensure that, rising tide raises all boats. The people have really started seeing the dreams of living in a "New Nepal," in which, the fundamental issue of good governance, in terms of effectiveness, efficiency, transparency, responsiveness and accountability, will be attended to.

It would not be wise on the part of politicians to let down the people that are so focused on the hope for peace and prosperity with enthusiastic creative imagination. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor, who vehemently opposed Nazism famously said: "the ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world it leaves to its children."

The current generation of politicians in Nepal, thus, has an obligation to become moral and worthy ancestors. They have a responsibility of making sure that the ongoing political transformation brings peace, prosperity and democratic freedom to the people or else they run the risk of being remembered as bunch of loonies that embarked on the journey of political engineering without proper vision, knowledge, and direction and ended up creating a political Frankenstein.

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