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Liberalizing conservatism in new avatar

Rajaram Bartaula

Rajaram Bartaula

 |  Kathmandu

The preamble of the Constitution of Nepal states that Nepal is committed to socialism based on democratic norms and values including the people’s competitive multiparty democratic system of governance.

The Constitution has laid down provisions of civil liberties, fundamental rights, human rights, adult franchise, periodic elections, freedom of the press, and independent, impartial and competent judiciary, and the concept of the rule of law to build a prosperous nation, which is clearly an adoption of the political system with liberalism and Marxism cumulatively as its core guiding principles.

The drafters of the Constitution were under pressure on whether to follow a single political system to lead the nation since the constitution was being drafted after the peace process with the Maoist combatants who had raged a war against the state, a revolution to change the system entirely at its one dictum under communist ideals. The peace process under the agreed understanding between the democratic parties and Maoist forces was for the socio-economic transformation of the nation under a multiparty democratic system of governance. While adopting the Interim Constitution of Nepal, the parties at the Constituent Assembly formed a consensus unanimously to opt for a republican system of governance after restructuring the state into a federal setup. From that point on, Nepal abolished semi-feudalism as well as partial conservatism for transforming into a liberalized system of governance.

But, when the Constitution of Nepal was promulgated in 2015, it was stated that the system of governance would be mixed nature of liberalism and Marxism, a state of confusion heralded thereon without a clear principle of political exercise. This is manifested in various forms of political decisions that neither confirm the state’s dedication nor work in favor of its people.

After 2015, two democratic elections and several governments have been in place with so many political promises and programs to transform the country into a prospered nation. Contrary to the promises of the leaders during the electoral contest, the nation has suffered from bad governance, filled with hypocrisy, and authoritarian tendencies. The annoyance of the youths, their disappointment, and disenchantment was noticed during the last held elections many favouring either independent candidates or newly emerged independent parties.          

Many old grand parties have disappeared from the scene due to their inability to improve and enhance as well as the internal contradiction accumulated over the years to update and reinvigorate themselves according to the call of the time complying with the technology and generational aspiration. In our neighbourhood, the Indian National Congress is gradually losing relevancy from the public choice as an alternative political force. In Nepal, Praja Parishad, the first political party, which commenced revolt against the Rana oligarchy, and gave martyrs for democracy, is nowhere today of its existence.

Those who cannot stand firmly to meet the aspiration of the people are destined to fall and disappear from the political arena. Nepal’s old traditional political parties are moving toward that end because of the said incompetency, internal feud, contradiction, controversy within, and unwillingness to upgrade timely for change. Contrary to the expectation of the people, Nepal has become a fertile ground for nepotism, crony capitalism, impunity, and corruption.  The present state of anarchism and disorder is a tendency to foster and stabilize an authoritarian of the ruling elites.

From history annals, Nepal has experimented with and transformed different political models from autocracy to democracy, from feudalism to republicanism over time within 70 years after the overthrow of Rana oligarchy in 1950. But each form of governance could not be sustained and survived longer than thirty years; the longest being the Panchayat Democracy.

At the time of the revolution in 1950, the political parties that came into existence are mainly the Praja Parishad, Nepali Congress, and Nepal Communist Party. The surviving two among them have also come into question lately on their capability and role to lead the nation as they are seen gradually losing their hold in the popular mandate with the political constituencies getting out from their grab.

The supreme leaders at the helm representing the old faces occupying the seat for over three decades without any change in the top tier have annoyed not only their own cadres but also the voters as well.

Their greed and power-hungry nature have not only tarnished the image of the party but also blocked the smooth transition of power to the next competent generation who are aspiring for change, progress, and prosperity of the nation. They failed on every front including applying integrity, intelligence, and initiatives for the larger good of the nation and party itself.  

Nepal has tested upheavals with different political isms beginning with feudalism, and idealism becoming a UN member and specialized agencies of it. Its entry into realism and neorealism helped usher its national images and secure positions on the international stage as an honorable member of the community of nations.

The entry of the World Banks’ structural adjustment program could not produce any desired result towards economic prosperity, which sooner resulted in liberalism with the trend of globalization.

This time around, Nepal experienced a political change with the reinstatement of democracy. Newly introduced economic policy reform with the adoption of the liberalization and market economy as a core element in it to usher and accelerate the economic growth and prosperity of the nation opened up the market for capital, goods, and services assuming limited governance. When the reform was taking root in the market, the Maoist insurgents waged a war against the government in 1996, with the sole objective of establishing a people’s republic, which lasted for a decade and ended in 2006 after the signing of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement. After the promulgation of the Constitution of Nepal, in 2015, Nepal is being governed under a federal democratic republican system with the objective of attaining socialism as the ultimate goal of the nation.

Nepal has undergone all tests and experiences of governing political systems from idealism to realism, liberalism, neo-liberalism, and Marxism, yet without living up to the expectation of the people. What does it imply? Whether a revision or realization of conservatism in a reformed way could be the suitable system of governance for Nepal is to be seriously pondered upon. Given the fragility and vulnerability of the market and the distortion it created for the benefit of some and leaving the majority of the people at the bottom of the economic ladder has created serious consequences which have been reflected time and again in the form of economic crises, and repeating untameable recessions could symbolically be a call of the failure of liberalism, neo-liberalism, and Marxism.  

Let’s look at the growing economic crises unfolding in the realm of Nepal that bankers are, despite having liquidity crunch, and economic sluggishness, making money disproportionately with a high-profit ratio. It means the rich are accumulating wealth, whereas the poor are becoming the poorer. Whereas cooperatives are considered a pillar of a socialist economy, their state of financial health speaks a different story. The credibility of the cooperatives is so nasty that they are known as a loan shark. 

In such a scenario, appears a ray of hope at the end of the tunnel that the promotion and protection of the traditional way of life that believes in the incremental way of progression as an eternity of the society to protect their cultural, national, and individual identity. It should be tested by applying conservatism in a newly founded avatar and be revived allowing its inroad into progress and prosperity. The renewed and reformed conservatism practices a quasi-control in every sphere of life including political and social activities. It is like the repetition of a Keynesian model of the economy at a time of economic recession, which supports to stimulate the growth of the economy.           

(Bartaula is a former Diplomatic Officer of the Government of Nepal.) 


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