Seminar Report on Democratic Choice for
Nepal: Liberal or Social
Organised by Martyrs' Memorial Foundation
26-27 February 2010
Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in cooperation
with Martyrs Memorial Foundation has organised a two day seminar
in Kathmandu on 26-27 February 2010 on Democratic Choice for Nepal:
Social or Liberal. The chief guest of the seminar was former Prime
Minister and senior leader of Nepali Congress Sher Bahadur Deuba
who is also the current Vice President of Socialist International.
Bishnu Poudyal, Secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal United
(CPN-UML), Dina Upadhya , Central Committee Member of Nepali Congress
and Constituent Assembly member, Sagar Kumar Pathak of Nepal Civil
society, Dhundi Raj Shastri, former Minister and Dev Raj Dahal
Head of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung spoke in the inaugural session
. The two-day programme was attended mostly by the members of
political parties and young college students and student leaders
affiliated with various political parties. There are altogether
120 participants and four thematic papers presented on different
issues covering the various aspects of social democracy.
Speaking in the inaugural session former
Prime Minister Deuba said that we need to have a democratic
set-up that empowers poor and powerless by providing health,
employment, education and livelihood. Deuba said that we have
to increase the capacity of the state to guarantee the citizenship
rights and only then we can win the loyalty of the people towards
state and democratic system. Citing J.S. Mill, who talks about
individual liberty and freedom, Deuba said that individual liberty
and freedom can only be guaranteed when people at large feel
secured both from fear and basic needs deficit. For this to
happen, Deuba said that we need to uplift majority of the people
out of poverty and conditions of human rights established. When
only few people enjoy liberty and freedom both political and
economic and rest keep on struggling to meet their day-to-day
needs. Under these circumstances, liberty and freedom always
remain under threat and creating stakeholders of society becomes
difficult. Deuba demanded the establishment of justice at all
levels of society.
Bishnu Poudyal, Deputy Leader of Parliamentary
Party of CPN-UML, said that we need to incorporate the provision
of independent judiciary, pluralism in the upcoming constitution
as an attempt to provide social justice and bring peace-process
to its logical conclusion. However, communist party of Nepal
(united-Maoist) has been obstructing the peace-process. He further
said that both Nepali Congress and UML's People's Multiparty
Democracy have firm commitment towards social democracy and
have appropriately designed their party statute accordingly.
Dev Raj Dahal - Head of FES Nepal has
argued that the composition of left spectrum in the CA, Nepal's
commitment to all five generations of human rights, the structural
condition of poverty in the state, and different social declarations
of which Nepali state is a party, has forced us to move towards
social democracy. However, social democracy can only fulfill
its goals when state capacity is strengthened to subsidise the
poor and increase their stake and participation in the political
system. The current global economic crisis has given the state
considerable role in public good, social justice and ecologically
Dhundi Raj Shastri, former Minister
for Industry and Commerce, said that economy of the country
is entirely supported by foreign remittance and the financial
market of Kathmandu. He warned that rentier economy neither
provides political stability not contributes towards state-building,
the essential component that ensures social democracy. Hence
we need to move towards production so that massive unemployment
is addressed and people at large feel the positive change into
their day-to-day lives. He further said that Nepal Congress,
in practice should adopt democratic socialism rather than falling
prey to the market fundamentalism. He defended the establishment
of cooperatives, small scale industries, decentralise hydro-power
and ecologically sensitive and labour intensive production.
Shastri spoke in favour of indigenously drive process for CA,
peace and reforms.
Both Deuba and Poudyal said that programmes
like this will assist to balance the constitutional as well
as peace-process in moving towards "people".
The working session
There were altogether four papers on
different thematic issues. First paper was by Sumit Sharma Sameer,
Director of Centre for Consolidation of Democracy, on "Redefining
the Role of Nepali Youth in the Changing Context". Shamra,
while presenting his paper, said that time has come for Nepali
youths to change and be participant in the nation-building process.
He further said that Nepali youths - both political and non-political
has become hostage of the current situation and fatalism. They
have been co-opted by the political parties and used and abused
for their own benefits. They have little say on policy realm
and now the time has come for them to be active participants
on policy front such as what type of polity would best suit
to Nepal. Dina Upadhyay - Central Committee Member of Nepali
Congress and CA member and Kalyan Gurung commented on his paper.
Commenting on his paper from the floor,
Peshal Niraula, Historian and Researcher, said that political
instability in the country has disoriented youths even the newly
established republic set up will not produce any tangible result
if it does not embarrass some sort of positive political elements.
Nepalese youths are more interested in political movement and
regime change and less in social change said Narayan Gautam.
Sarita Prasai has said that we need to clearly define the youth
and the gap that exist between urban and rural youth needs to
be bridged and they need to have common agenda for the development
of the nation. We need to provide equal opportunity to the youth
which has not been the case until now said Bishnu Rijal. He
further blamed that state (Rajaya) has not given opportunity
to the youths. We need to make youths economically independent.
Equally important is that we need to bring both political and
non-political youths into the common platform so that they can
contribute towards nation-building process.
It appears that, from the discussion,
everybody wanted to have the presence of the state to address
the societal problem and empower poor. Political leaders have
also floated very ambitious agenda like social security and
social justice but the capacity of the state has not been strengthened.
We need to give much attention towards this end.
The second paper was presented by well
known constitutional lawyer Kumar Regmi on the "Democratic
Socialism and Current Nepali Constitution". His paper was
chaired by Chandra Kanta Dahal, former lawmaker from Nepali
Regmi said that all of Nepal's past
constitutions starting from 2004 BS have element of "social
democracy" in them but the fact is that state has always
failed to translate them into action due to weakness of the
leaders. There has been great deal of ideological differences
within the CA. For example UCPN (Maoist) is not in favour of
pluralism (because they practice loktantra- English translation
of which is democracy only) and want to ban all political parties
who have different ideology other than theirs. Regmi said that
pluralism survives in prajatantra (democracy) not in Maoist
loktantra (democracy). This has stalled the constitutional process
in the country. Khem Raj Regmi, former Education Secretary,
Sagar Pathak, Peshal Dahal, Hari Ram Poudyal and many others
commented on his paper. Sagar Pathak of Nepal Nagrik Samaj has
asked who is responsible for democratic deficit in the country.
Peshal Niraula has said that BP's commitment to constitutional
monarchy, democratic socialism would have strengthened nation,
nationalism, democracy and socialism but this has not been upheld
by Nepali Congress over the years. As a result, Congress today
has become "loser' in Nepali politics as none of its agenda
has gotten place and the party fell pretty to the agenda floated
by the ultra leftist. The agenda of monarchy, republicanism,
secularism and federalism are never floated by the political
parties at first instance. Its founding member and respected
leader of Nepali politics Krishna Prasad Bhattari disassociated
himself from the politics of Nepali Congress as it could not
defend the interest the nation. The popular agenda floated by
the leftists in the country has recently gotten a backlash.
In fact, Nepali congress, after 1990s adopted neoliberal economic
policy which has resulted in the great deal of crisis in the
country despite the constitutional provision of economic policies
based on democratic socialism.
The third paper was presented by Prof.
Yagya P. Adhikari, Executive Director of Centre for Nepal and
Asian Studies (CNAS) on "Democratic Socialism in Nepal
Context and its Relationship with Social Justice", while
Sagar SJB Rana chaired the session. Constituent Assembly member
Pushpa Bhusal and former Secretary of the Government Khem Raj
Regmi commented on the paper. While presenting his paper Prof.
Adhikari said that democratic socialism is not only philosophy
but it should be taken as a means to change the society. He
narrated the historical evolution of social democracy and tried
to fit in Nepali context. He further argued that capitalism
cannot serve the need of the society if it is implemented in
its absolute form. It needs to be made people friendly by distributing
its benefit equally at different layers of the society. He suggested
that market should be regulated by clipping its negative effects.
He emphasised that we need to be clear about the fact that as
what type of social democracy would best suit for Nepal. It
has to be modeled to fit in our context; therefore debate at
local level is essential. The European model may not suit here
given our socio-economic disparity as European states have fulfilled
basic needs of people but the fact is that our economic and
political hierarchies can only be addressed by adopting social
democracy. He further said that without good economy, there
is no way that we can have democratic socialism. That said,
however, we really need to have economic policies that benefits
broader society not few individuals who hold the capital.
Commenting on his paper CA member Pushpa
Bhusal has said that we need to redefine the philosophy of social
democracy scientifically particularly in the context of Nepal
because Nepali youths have shown little interest towards agriculture
where nearly 80 percent workforce is employed. Perhaps time
has come to develop an area where they could be mobilised. The
industrialisation and expansion of service sector would best
suit for Nepali youths said Bhhusal. This process, however,
should reflect the component of social justice. Likewise, Khem
Raj Regmi has said that BP Koiral, indeed, was the real social
democrat who initiated various steps to uplift poor out of poverty
such as ending the feudalistic system in the country by adopting
land reform porgamme, eliminating the principalities and providing
citizenship rights to all kinds of people at equal footing.
He initiated an approach wherein both power and resources could
be decentralised at the grassroots level.
Commenting on his paper Peshal Niraula
said that we need to carefully study the structure of society
as well as the development in intermediate technology. We also
need to highlight the positive side of capitalism. He blamed
that Nepali Congress has failed to upheld the principles of
democratic socialism as the party has been dogged by the culture
of nepotism, croinism, and sycophancy. Even the cooperatives
are engaged in profit making business - where will democratic
socialism come from asked Dhruba Puri. Another commentator Swastika
(Ram Kummari Pokhrel) has said that country has been "NGOised"
and the NGO led development, NGO guided politics, NGO guided
security policy and service has weakened the state and its capacity
for redistribute welfare.
Speaking from the Chair Sagar SJB Rana
said that we need to initiate the process of socialisation (civic
education) through schools and we also need to have discussion
about the social democracy that both BP and European advocate.
The final paper was presented by Constituent
Assembly member Shovakar Parajuli on "Constitution Making
and Peace-Process". His paper was chaired by Prof. Birendra
P Mishra (who led the peace-process) while Kashi Raj Dahal,
Chairman of Administrative Court of Nepal, and Yuba Raj Ghimire,
Chief Editor of Rajdhani Daily, commented on the paper. The
authors blamed that peace-process has been obstructed by the
ultra leftist and it appears that if the situation continues,
constitution may not come in time. Kashi Raj Dahal has said
that we have been ranting about peace but the culture of peace
has not been established in the country.
Likewise, commenting on his paper Sr.
Journalist Yuba Raj Ghimire has said that when rulers failed
to strike a deal, they merely blame the constitution but do
not introspect why particular constitution has failed. He said
that human behavior can be regulated through constitution but
morality cannot be enforced. He blamed that the issue of republicanism,
secularism and federalism has been merely floated by the certain
influential political leaders for their own vested interest.
History will judge it - whether those decisions were right or
wrong. He further blamed that the authority of the state has
been transferred to the political parties and other sister organizations
as a result Nepali state has become weak. The peace process
is entirely led or influenced by the donor community who often
set agendas of their own. Prof. Mishra said that this is not
a peace-process, its merely a ceasefire process.
Speaking from the floor Peshal Niraula
opined that Nepali Congress has surrendered all of its ideology
under external pressure as a result NC is not a real player
in Nepali politics. The greed exhibited by NC leader has brought
this nation into the crossroad. The issue of monarchy, secularism
and federalism should have been discussed with the public before
jumping down to any conclusion.
NC lost its economic ideology of democratic
socialism under the pressure from World Bank and business community
and political ideology under the pressure from UCPN (Maoist)
and others. In fact NC and UML both supported the agenda of
UCPN (Maoist) said journalist Ghimire. Vijaya Dahal enquired
whether federalism will guarantee peace and democracy in the
The organisers of the seminar has decided
to take it to the grass root level and include more youth participants
in the days to come as they are the real engine of the society.