As the country celebrates the Loktantra Diwas (Democracy Day) today, there is an apparent disenchantment toward the existing polity among general people. This does not bode well for welfare and longevity of the federal democratic republic which we got after decades of struggle and many people sacrificed with lives and blood.
The roots of disenchantments are obvious. All the major political parties rallied against the autocratic regime with the promise of democracy and various values that it enshrines. After the 2006 political changes, all major forces enjoyed the opportunity to lead the polity more than once: Nepali Congress ruled four times (with intervals between 2006 and 2018); CPN (Maoist) ruled twice (with intervals from 2008 to 2013); and UML ruled three times (with intervals from 2009 to 2016). KP Sharma Oli of erstwhile Nepal Communist Party (NCP) is at the helm since 2018. In other words, all major forces enjoyed the opportunity to lead the polity more than once but all they could do was to find ways to remain in power as long as possible, while doing little to deliver on the promises made to the people. Another glaring failure of these parties was their inability to build public institutions which could help democracy thrive and deliver on basic human needs and ensure good governance.
The lust for power, with little regard for wellbeing of people, resulted in perennial government changes. When the constitution of 2015 enshrined the provisions of ensuring government stability, it was widely appreciated as a welcome departure from years of instability. Thus, when the alliance of UML and Maoist Center won the 2017 polls nearly with two thirds majority and the government was formed under the leadership of K P Sharma Oli, it was thought of as a turning point in Nepal’s journey toward political stability, prosperity and development.
But as things stand today, grievances of people against political institutions are growing. Disillusionment seems to be spreading down up to the ground. Populism is what every party seems to be craving for, instead of fulfilling the national aspirations given voice by our constitution. This does not help strengthen the democratic system. Political parties, most reliable safeguards of democracy, need to reflect where they failed, admit the shortcomings, correct them and move on. In fact, this is also a time of collective reflections on what we as a nation dreamed to achieve, what we gained and lost and where we are heading toward. Accountability is a prerequisite to earn people’s trust and send positive message to the society. People’s confidence in the system will develop, when the country can deliver on the promises of equality, ensure justice, address the aspirations of prosperity of all, including those historically marginalized.
We are facing the unimagined threat caused by the global pandemic on our life, economy and wellbeing. This reveals the limits of our ability to survive and limits of our political institutions and parties to deliver. Collectively, and with accountability, we can generate hope, and strengthen the system even amid adverse times. Democracy is its own defense. It needs to be strengthened and sustained by us all. On that note, happy Loktantra Diwas!