We have been fighting for party politics for so many years that we cannot imagine having a non-party democracy. Our political parties have evolved into syndicates, and as such, there will be no democracy in Nepal as long as there is no democracy or accountability within political parties.
The irony is that we have protected our elitist structures in the name of protecting our old traditional values, while leaders exploit the state’s resources even though they have similar resources at their personal disposal. Our resources, as well as the circle of our political elite, are both very small. So it is important that we look not just at the leadership but at the socio-cultural context behind the leadership.
Even today, one of our four former prime ministers is likely to be the new prime minister. We seem to be at a standstill from a sociological point view. These four former prime ministers have been in leadership for the past 30 years.
Over the last 20 years, I’ve been looking into a certain political party closely. It has not been able to expand its base, party membership is divided into factions and sub-factions. And unless it expands its support base, a certain subsection of the party will forever have a monopoly over all its resources.
Democracy without political parties is unthinkable because we and our resources are under the stranglehold of those parties and their leaders. But ultimately, the people should be able to choose their leadership since there is little possibility to form new parties through social movements. And even though the country has been through transformational democratic movements in recent history, it is doubtful if Nepali society itself has become more democratic.
Individual rights, individual responsibility, collective rights and collective responsibility must be merged because a society cannot be built without individual freedom. And there cannot be an independent society without an autonomous and independent citizenry.
Our responsibility does not stop on the day that we cast our ballots. On the contrary, it is our responsibility to keep the egos of our leaders in check, to hold our leaders accountable, and to strengthen our voices.
Nepal is a testament to the fact that democracy is characterised by diversity. A country that has no minority, no resistance, and where a select few have a monopoly over rights and resources can never be democratic. The politics of prohibition will always hinder the politics of pluralism.
Based on Episode 11 and 12 of Saglo Samaj, a tv magazine program produced by Himalmedia which is broadcast every Monday at 8:30 pm on Dish Home Channel 130.