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Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Parties: Orphans Of Ideology

 Yuba Nath Lamsal

The national congresses of three key parties – CPN-UML, Nepali Congress and Rastriya Prajatantra Party or RPP are over now. The other party CPN-Maoist Centre is also set to hold its congress in two weeks. There are some marked similarities in the congresses of the three parties. The congresses of all parties began with fanfare and hullaballoo and ended in a fuss. The parties had been expected to debate issues having direct bearing on the people and the country and come up with the policy tools to address them. Nothing such happened. The principal focus seemed to be on how to capture the leadership and secure party positions.

Given the way the mega meetings were held, it is clear that our political parties are devoid of ideologies and principles. No debate was held on ideology, policies and programmes. Parties have become orphans of ideology. There has been marked dichotomy between principles and practice. None of the political parties practice what they preach. This inconsistency in principle and practice, and rhetoric and action has made it hard to predict what course of action the parties and leaders will take.

Declining trust
When principle, ideology and moral authority cease to guide the parties, anything is possible — good or evil. This makes parties and leaders unreliable and unpredictable. This is perhaps one reason why there has been declining trust in political parties and leaders. People are getting apathetic to politics as a whole. This is a global phenomenon but more dominant in Nepal. As a result, in the eyes of people, politics is not being taken as a ‘noble profession’ but as said by George Bernard Shaw the ‘last resort of scoundrels’— a game for power and position. This is global problem but more in developing countries including Nepal.

Parties are facing existential problem. Existential politics is what has made the parties unpredictable. The parties, instead of standing firmly for the cause and ideals they fought for, focus on agendas that serve their immediate interests. Even party is not in the supreme interest of leaders. A leader thinks of the party and a statement thinks of the country. Our leaders mobilise and use their energy and resources to consolidate own clique and faction rather than the party. They, in a conjurer type, try to create illusion among voters during elections to grab votes. This is how market politics is evolving and has become dominant in the world -- do what market demands and get quick return.

Let us take a close look at the ideological orientation of our parties. Nepal’s political parties can be divided into three categories -- rightist, centrist and leftist. In the right is the RPP, whereas Nepali Congress is the centrist party but moving to the rightist direction. The UML is a leftist but moving to the centre. The Maoist Centre is also a leftist party and slowly moving to left of the centre but it is still in dilemma where it should make its position clear. There are some other leftist parties, which claim to be revolutionary leftist but are not in the mainstream politics. The Janata Samajbadi Party has more like left of the centre orientation while Loktantrik Samajbadi Party is basically Terai-based party with slight right orientation. The CPN-Unified Socialist is a newly established party and its position is yet to be tested.

The Rastriya Prajatantra Party is royalist that advocates revival of monarchy and Hindu state. On this ground, it may be called a rightist party. However, in recently held national congress, RPP demonstrated more democratic exercise and culture than UML. In the recent 14th national congress, the UML tried to discourage democratic exercise in the name of consensus while choosing the leadership, which is a testimony that the party has still not come out of the old Marxist-Leninist hangover, despite the fact that party in principle follows Madan Bhandari’s People’s Multiparty Democracy — a competitive democracy. This signifies the fact that UML, too, does not practice what it preaches.

NC’s political position is right of the centre having faith in liberal democracy with some degree of social justice. In other words, its guiding principle is social democracy, something akin to the Nordic political system. NC’s founding leader BP Koirala defined democratic socialism in Nepal’s context and adopted as the ideological basis of the party. With BP Koirala’s demise, NC not only lost its ideological leader but also its ideological identity. NC in practice has abandoned the democratic socialism and adopted ultra-capitalist model.

The other key party is the Maoist Centre that emerged from the armed insurgency but it has now split. Two groups walked away from this party and adopted different political course. Prachanda-led Maoist party is now in peaceful parliamentary practice. It was built on Mao Zedong’s ideological dictum of ‘power comes out of the barrel of gun’. Now it is adjusting with the peaceful parliamentary practice and has inconsistencies in ideology and practice.

Rhetorical inconsistency
A communist party does not believe in parliamentary politics. The tendency of Nepal’s communist parties is to try violent method in the beginning and soon switch to peaceful parliamentary politics. The UML once experimented with violent method seeking to establish one-party communist regime but soon gave up adopting democratic path. The MC too followed it. However, their democratic credential is still under scrutiny because of rhetorical inconsistency.

The marked similarity in all parties of Nepal -- big or small -- is ideological vacillation and oscillation. The inconsistency leads to credibility problem for parties in the eyes of people. They are required to come out of the vacillation and establish credible and firm political and ideological base. Otherwise, parties will be orphans of ideologies and may lose their relevance.