The culture of alliances between disparate groups hinders broader political process
Nepal is beset by personal weaknesses of its political leadership. People hope to see meaningful change soon, but the question is: How? And when? All political parties have been working to find a way out, but the ruling Maoist party won’t concede to a solution if it entails the prime minister’s resignation. The President is tired of trying for an amicable solution to the current crisis and has warned political parties to work towards one without any further ado. But owing to shared greed and self-interest of politicians, there seems to be no easy way out, which in turn is threatening the stability of the nation as a whole.
To make matters worse, Nepali politics has been set on a wrong track on the whims of a handful of political leaders. For instance, Madhesi People’s Right Forum (MPRF), National Madhesh Socialist Party (NMSP), Tamsaling Nepal Rastriya Dal, RastriyaJanamukti Party, Khambuwan Swayatta Rajya Parishad, Janamukti Party Nepal and Nepal Shanti Samaj Party have recently launched a new alliance: The Federal Democratic Alliance (FDA). FDA claims to be a new political force geared to building an inclusive federal democracy which will give voice to the underprivileged, downtrodden and vulnerable sections of the society. It has left no stones unturned to attract Janajatis, Dalits and other vulnerable groups. Its chief, Upendra Yadav, has urged all the ethnic groups to desert the UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress and CPN-UML and join his new alliance, since other parties are not eager to fight for their cause. It’s a different matter that these sections haven’t actually flocked to FDA as yet.
FDA has issued a 12-point common agenda for the promulgation of a new constitution with federal states based on ethnicity, regional identity and economic viability. They want federal states to enjoy the right to self-determination, preferential political rights and self-autonomy and for state mechanisms to be inclusive of Madhesi, Janajati, Muslims, Dalits and other marginalized groups. They also want proportionate representation of different sections of the society in state mechanisms. Another of their demands is to for designation of mother tongues as official languages. By putting all these demands together, the alliance is pleading for full autonomy of the states in the new constitution.
While the country is suffering from economic hardships and great political uncertainty, setting up a new political force to bring about ‘revolutionary changes’ through the same-old leaders is simply ludicrous. It is a gimmick of political leaders to cover up their past failures, an outcome of their defeated mindset.
Let us take the example of NMSP Chairman Sharat Singh Bhandari. The disgraced politician expelled from the Gachhadar-led Madhesi Forum hasn’t gotten the message yet that there is no place for him in Madhesi politics. Similarly, TNRD leader Parshuram Tamang argues that the alliance would be a formidable alternative political force as the major political parties have failed to fulfill their responsibility. The new political force, he boasts, would assimilate all the ethnic communities under economically disadvantaged categories and give them rightful share in government. Bhandari has been long on demands but short on details.
The major political parties consider the formation of FDA a marriage of convenience. Many believe that as these leaders were largely sidelined in the major political parties, they were bound to form a political alliance to salvage their identity. While they have envisaged identity-based federal states and talked up rights of vulnerable ethnic groups, they have not chalked out any strategy to achieve their lofty goals. Their one and only strategy is to protest against the government and to push the country into further chaos.
Bereft of any vision to empower the marginalized, vulnerable and ethnically disadvantageous groups, they have simply decided to bring all disadvantaged groups at one place and press for their demand. FDA believes that a federal constitution with proportional representation from diverse ethnic groups would solve the country’s problems. But it is only a mirage, a tactic to trap the uneducated, exploited and ethnically disadvantaged groups by handful of clever, self-serving politicians.
Astonishingly, Upendra Yadav, who not long ago was a staunch follower of Maoist Chairman Prachanda and a Foreign Minister during the first Maoist government, now alleges the same Maoists of not believing in federalism, inclusiveness, pluralism and multiparty democracy. He blames that the FDRA—the ruling alliance of the Maoists, Madhesis and vulnerable groups—has no road map and ideology and is only formed to capture state power. He calls Communists anti-federalists because neither Marx and Lenin, nor Mao, believed in federalism.
Such acrimonious statements makes it evident that both the alliances—Yadav’s FDA and Prachanda’s FDRA—have been constituted with a view to benefiting respective parties and not to serve the vulnerable groups.
Both the new alliances only finger out others’ mistakes without explaining why these has been so little reform inside the two alliances themselves. They don’t talk about imparting education, medical care and jobs for the betterment of disadvantaged groups. Instead, these alliances are busy selling false dreams to ethnic groups to meet their vested political interests.
After the formation of these two alliances, a major chunk of Janajatis, Dalits and similar other ethnic groups have quit the CPN-UML, alleging the party of not serving their interests. Dissident leaders from UML include party vice-chairman Ashok Rai and some other senior leaders who, the CPN-UML later said, were actually expelled from the mother party.
Both the alliances have emphasized inclusiveness to empower the marginalized and oppressed groups. It is easier said than done. For them, the most difficult task would be to ensure proportional representation of all ethnic communities based on population strength. Besides, they could benefit more if they ask special privileges for the downtrodden and underprivileged groups in education, particularly girl child education and allowances for their upbringing.
Nepal today faces multiple crises such as incomplete democratization, social exclusion, ethnic tensions and a myriad of economic problems and poor employment prospects. They are significant threats to political stability. To make the situation worse, state authority is weak and many parts of the country are under the control of criminal gangs with close links with political parties.
After 2006, Nepal has become a fractured country divided among competing ethnic groups without any sensible reason. Politicians have fostered such divisions to promote their own selfish and limited interests. The country needs forceful leadership that can unite it, not one which sows further divisions.
The author is former foreign secretary
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