Yuba Nath Lamsal
It looks as though gone are the days of value-based politics in Nepal. Ideology, principle, conviction and faith no longer occupy any space in the lexicon of the political parties. What prevails in the present day politics is power, perks and position, for which intrigues, conspiracy and deception have become the name of the game in Nepal’s politics. Grabbing power and retaining it by any possible means, be it moral or otherwise, is the new norm in the politics which has not only corroded the moral of honest and genuine politicians but also created a sense of public apathy towards politics.
Power is paramount force which plays crucial role for one’s influence and position in party and politics. The fundamental raison d’être of the present day politics is to gain control over power and accumulate wealth through whatever means possible. As this trend continues to escalate, politics is becoming a game of scoundrels who resort to politics to cover up their crimes. As a result, criminals are politicizing crimes whereas politicians are criminalizing politics.
As politics is being criminalized, political parties are vying to attract criminals and gangsters into their parties. Now some gangsters and their bosses, most of whom are in the wanted list of police, are members of different political parties. These thugs are carrying out banditry under political cover and protection. This trend has killed morale, value, honesty and norms in politics. Most of the parties have given up the political principle, philosophy and values their founders had cherished.
Ideology has taken a back seat in the agenda of the parties. The original political documents of Nepal’s parties have their own analysis on other political parties. The Nepali Congress is one of the oldest parties in Nepal which has the history of leading movements against dictatorship of different kinds on different occasions. The party was founded when Nepal was under Rana oligarchy. In the beginning, Nepali Congress was a revolutionary party that not only opposed feudal oligarchy but also championed some revolutionary economic programmes. In course of time, it ultimately turned out to be a rightist party and started hobnobbing with feudal forces and comprador capitalists, which marked its clear departure from its original principle and policy. Until its founder BP Koirala was alive, Congress stood for the principles of democratic socialism both in words and action. With the demise of BP Koirala, Congress lost its ideological and philosophical energy and floated along with the wave of changes taken place in the world and also in Nepal. When socialist bloc collapsed with the fall of Soviet empire that paved the way for global influence of capitalism in 1990s and later, the Congress completely abandoned its ideological stance and followed the path of ultra capitalism. The Nepali Congress transformed itself into a rightist and capitalist party. Since then ideological debate and orientation also came to an end in this party. What guided the Congress is the immediate political gains.
In the case of the CPN-UML, which is also one of the mainstream parties of Nepal at present, this party is also devoid of principles and ideological debate. This party was founded with revolutionary zeal guided by communist principle of class struggle to emancipate the people from all forms of exploitation. In the beginning, it raised arms in Jhapa but realized that armed struggle was not possible in the contemporary Nepal and began to mobilize people for a mass movement. Within ten years of its foundation, the UCPN-UML (previously known as CPN-ML), expanded its organization so rapidly that it had a nationwide presence and established itself as the militant and strongest cadre-based party in Nepal. Marxism, Leninism and Mao Zedong thought was behind its inspiration and energy. The party went through ideological debate on various occasions and these debates sharpened it ideologically and politically. The ideological debate continued until 1990, which maintained its ideological and organizational vitality. It finally gave up revolutionary ideology and adopted the peaceful political course through periodic election based on multi-party political system and the ideological debate also completely came to an end in this party, which marked the beginning of its ideological, political and organizational decline. Formally giving up, Marxist-Leninist doctrine, it adopted a cross breed of capitalist and socialist system called ‘People’s Multi-party Democracy’ or PMPD, which is in essence akin to BP’s democratic socialism in Nepal’s context. Although Madan Bhandari and his followers claimed political copyright over the PMPD, the ideological switchover of the CPN-UML had been long due and this was natural process because the party had already undergone ideological and political transformation and degeneration. The PMPD is not a political ideology but an opportunistic scheme to hoodwink the people just to grab power. In reality, the PMDP was a deviation to capitalism, reformism and revisionism.
The other political force that has key role in the political equation of Nepal is the front of different Madhesi parties that have cobbled together for the greater interest of the people in the Terai plain. They are scattered and split into different parties. They know that the role of individual Madhesi parties was not effective and this realization has brought them together under the banner of Democratic Madhesi Front. These parties came into existence only lately and most of the leaders were formerly associated with other mainstream parties like the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML. These parties emerged in Nepal’s political scene to take advantage of the new situation cashing in on sentiment of the people in the Terai. Thus, the Madhesi parties are, too, opportunistic force and it is useless to expect any ideological debate and input from them.
The largest political force at present in Nepali political arena is the UCPN-Maoist. This party was founded on revolutionary communist ideology of Marxism, Leninism and Maoism or MLM. Since its guiding political and ideological doctrine is MLM, it pursued the tactics of protracted people’s war as practiced by Mao Zedong during the Chinese revolution. Its goal was to establish the communist regime. Its ideology and guerilla warfare proved to be successful in attracting people in such a way that the party virtually controlled almost 75 per cent of the country. Until the emergence of the Maoists, CPN-UML represented the leftist trend in Nepal. As the Maoists gained strength, the CPN-UML was pushed to centrist line and the Maoists became the sole representative of the revolutionary leftist political ideology in Nepal. However, vacillation and deviation have surfaced in the party from ideological as well as tactical point of view especially over the last four years. This happened when the party gave up armed insurgency and joined the peaceful politics. The Maoist party had started armed insurgency with the resolve that it would not lay down arms until its objective of establishing new democracy was achieved. In course of its decade-long insurgency, the Maoist party had achieved many successes, suffered several setbacks and learnt some important lessons. Based on its successes, setbacks and lessons, the Maoists changed its tactical policy of joining peaceful politics and finally declared the end of the decade long insurgency, which was a clear deviation from its revolutionary ideology and a beginning of reformist political line. It contested the multi-party election in which it emerged as the largest political force of the country. During the period of its decade-long insurgency and five years after it joined the peace process, the Maoists underwent a fierce ideological debate, which continues even today. Three types of ideological lines are clearly visible in the party. The debate is whether the party should give continuity to the revolutionary line and protracted armed insurgency or to pursue peaceful politics and work for peace and constitution in the line adopted by other parliamentary parties. The ideological debate in the Maoist party had had serious impact not only in the organizational life of the party but also on Nepal’s national politics. Since the UCPN-Maoist is the largest political force of the country, Nepal’s present political course is revolving around the Maoist party. The political course of the country would also be determined on how the political and ideological debate of the Maoist party would be resolved.
The ideology is the lifeblood of any political party. The ideological debate sharpens and energizes the political organization. Once the party is devoid of ideological stance and it gives up ideological debate, the political party is considered as a dead organization. In the case of Nepal, the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML seem to be devoid of ideological debate and stance, which is the reason for their dwindling strength and popularity. The Maoists, too, seem to be following the Congress and UML path. The political parties, thus, need to make their cherished ideology the core value of its political standing and activities, instead of only seeking power and position. This would only strengthen party’s position and energize its workers, followers and supporters.