Nepalese Politics In Shifting Lights
Multiverse of Nepal's Democracy
Editors: Dev Raj Dahal
and C. D. Bhatta
Published Date: 2010
Published by: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
Price: Not mentioned, Pages:
By Ritu Raj Subedi
Multiverse of Nepal's Democracy is a
postmortem of Nepali democracy, constitutional practices,
civil society and feminist movements. It has five long
articles wherein one can notice intellectual sparks that
take the readers into new horizons of political discourses.
The book deals with the topical agenda and matches the
historic time of constitution writing and peace process.
Seemingly, the FES has brought this publication to give
inputs to the politicians, civil society leaders, journalists
and other agents of change so that they could be able
to carefully manage the country's turbulent transition.
Tone Bleie and Dev Raj Dahal, in their
'Multiverse of Democracy: Is Culture of Constitutionalism
the Agenda?', attempt to synthesize the gist of 'post-liberal
democracy' with a diagnosis of Nepal's social, political
and religious conditions since the time of its unification.
It discusses a wide range of issues and offers insights
to widen the meaning of democracy to fulfill the genuine
aspirations of citizens as every section of the society
has sprung up to stake claim to resources, power and opportunity
from the state that is itself in a flux.
They suggest the new leadership should
embrace the values of social democracy to ensure the people's
social, economic and cultural rights, which they note,
are undermined by conservative and liberal political systems.
"Central challenges to Nepalese democracy today are
thus to build up a common commitment to a negotiated culture
of constitutionalism, to bind the citizens and leaders
by a common authority of laws and develop a set of institutions
and rules which can protect the rights of citizens, elicit
their informed participation in public spheres and peacefully
manage conflicts arising out of diversity," they
The dissertation shows concerns as to
why the political institutions and practices in Nepal
are becoming more undemocratic and the peace process more
fragile. The rising ethnic tension and identity issue
are important topics of discussion. There is a tendency
of exploiting radical ethno-regional differences for political
mobilizations. The writers are of the view that leaders
of new Nepal must be able to reconcile the mushrooming
of ethnic and regional identities with a new sense of
common nationality to overcome the current crisis of national
However, their observation of political
philosophy adopted by the mainstream and Madhesi parties
is not cut and dried. Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have
been pursuing neo-liberal agenda for the last two decades
although both claim to follow socialism. The Maoists have
also compromised with capitalism for economic growth.
Madhesi parties are confined to parochial group interest,
not to universal values of social democracy. But, the
authors note that NC and Madhesi parties are practicing
'multiverse of social democracy,' which is, in fact, not
Constitution expert Kashi Raj Dahal
conducts a comparative study of six constitutions that
Nepal got in six decades. He argues that the parties'
fight for executive power led to one constitutional crisis
after another. He notes the widespread poverty, inequality,
ineffective power-sharing mechanism, political patronage,
and the propensity to use extra-constitutional means when
it suits the interest of those in power hinders the process
of democratization, weakening the civic political culture
essential to sustain the constitutional system.
Economist Meena Acharya's Changing Discourse
on Women's Movement examines the feminist movements in
Nepal and their role for increased women empowerment.
She admits that the Nepalese women movements remained
erratic and uneven. "Nonetheless, it continues to
grow encompassing ever new issues - increased political
representation, equal legal property rights, citizenship
rights, inclusion of women's contribution to GDP, and
empowerment in general," she said.
Senior journalist Yuvraj Ghimire in
Shifting Role of Media in Constitution-Making gives emphasis
on the role of media as mediator in the peace process
and constitution writing. According to him, the Nepalese
media were pro-negotiation at the height of conflict but
now they are divided on the issue. Ghimire notes that
economic and political controls pose a threat to the professionalism
and independence of the media. "Nepali media have
woken up to the threat from organized political groups
including the state, but are yet to respond to the problem
of direct and indirect economic control."
Ghimire seems to be harsh on the Maoists
and complains that the Nepalese media have not shown the
needed guts to criticize 'the Maoist highhandedness' following
their entry into the peace process. His write-up would
have been more balanced if he had focused on the constructive
role of media to encourage Maoists to embrace the path
of peace and non-violence.
'Unpacking Nepal's Civil Society' by
C D Bhatta is highly critical of Nepalese civil society
organizations. Bhatta argues that a large part of the
civic sphere is still dominated by the urban bourgeois
on the basis of a 'hierarchical' system in its rank and
file and has failed to include those who cannot form their
own associations to bargain with the state and market
or even to carry out advocacy. Many civil society groups
are here engaged in opposition politics and regime change,
carrying the agenda of political parties. They sorely
lack a sense of civic value, charity and volunteerism
and are donor-driven, he says. While trying to make critically
disect at the burgeoning Nepalese civil society groups,
Bhatta, however, fails to appreciate their role to generate
democratic awareness against autocracy and authoritarian
The book reminds the leadership of frontline
institutions for its increased role to expand the people's
choices in the new political set-up. Since all the writers
are authority in the respective fields, their analytical
writes-up offer fresh approach to the topics discussed.
It is the politicians who can benefit much from the collection
to mend their ways as they are on the defensive with the
public venting its ire against them for their poor handling
of national politics.
Source: Friday Supplement , The
Rising Nepal Daily (3 June 2011)