Essence and Challenges of Democracy in Nepal
One-day seminar organised by School of
19 December 2015, Kathmandu
Prepared by Ritu Raj Subedi
There is no dispute over the virtues of democracy. Democracy holds
potency to emancipate the humanity from all forms of socio-economic
fetters. There is global unanimity that it is close to perfection.
There are various forms of democracy but there is no alternative
to true form of democratic system. Its only alternative is more
refined, more inclusive and more participatory democracy. This
is a reason why the word "democracy" has become a political
pet term clung to the lips of the politicians of all stripes.
Today no one dares to say that s/he dislikes it. It is not merely
a political principle and catchphrase but also an integral part
of human conduct, attitude and way of life. It is a vital indicator
of the development of civilization. The more the society is democratic,
the more it is rational, wise and just. A true embrace of democratic
values makes the state stable, peaceful, affluent, tolerant and
ethical. This will perhaps be an apogee of democratic state that
many nations on globe are aspiring to reach. It is euphonious
to muse over such an ideal democratic state. But, it requires
Herculean efforts to live up to the essence of democracy. Sometime
such efforts might end up in Sisyphean fate. Many societies and
nations have floundered while trying to translate it into action.
Only a few of them have grabbed the brass ring. Still, it is not
a mirage. It is attainable given that the nations make sustained,
genuine and diligent endeavours to this end.
Nepal's tryst with modern democracy began over half a century
ago but it underwent intermittent experiments and confronted
occasional hiccups. There were three revolutions plus other
movements to restore and deepen democratic polity. Even the
unbroken practice lasting two and a half decades was disastrous.
With the democratic republic, institutionalized by the most
inclusive constitution promulgated last year, Nepal's democratic
journey looks moving at full throttle. But it is fraught with
many vexing challenges. The parties that spearheaded the democratic
movements have themselves suffered from serious democratic deficit.
The dearth of democratic culture is another pervasive malaise.
This has hindered overall democratization process. Notwithstanding,
it has never been ceased to be a critical discourse. The democratic
project goes long lasting, no matter what obstacles come in
the way. The professed stakeholders as well as followers of
democracy continue to do soul-searching to correct and catch
the high road of democracy. There is an increased realization
that only a robust internal democracy, genuine inclusiveness
and broader participation can consolidate it in the post constitution
phase. It was acknowledged at a seminar 'Essence and Challenges
of Democracy in Nepal' jointly organised by the School of Democracy-Nepal
and FES, Nepal Office in Kathamandu. Over 100 youths participated
in the one-day seminar where the political leaders, particularly
from Nepali Congress highlighted their vision of democracy and
made their commitment to refine and bolster it. It was divided
into inaugural and technical sessions dominated by the presence
Sher Bahadur Deuba, former prime minister and NC leader
Liberty is the primary element of democracy that enables the
citizens to articulate their concerns in the society. Nepal's
constitution is inclusive. No constitution is perfect. It is
refined as per the need of the people and time. The agitating
Madhesi parties should call off their border-based agitation
and come to the negotiating table to find a solution through
talks. Hurling petrol bombs and stones during the President's
visit to the Janaki Temple was a shameful act. No one has right
to infringe upon the people's religious freedom. Everybody has
his/her rights to offer prayers in the temples. We visit different
religious shrines in India to pay homage to the deities. It
is heinous act to make fatal attack on the devotees in the premises
of temple. The alleged culprits should be brought to book. The
NC functionaries should work together to enhance internal democracy
and institutionalize democracy.
Arjun Narsing KC on 'Current development of democratic practice'
Democracy is only system that is close to perfection. About
193 nations have embraced democratic system. It is not only
a system but also a culture, process and attitude. In Nepal,
parliament came into existence with the incessant struggles
of political parties. The NC led three revolutions but ironically
it could not mould itself into a true democratic force. The
NC is devoid of internal democracy and has been running under
the diktats of a handful of leaders. Its economic policy has
never been socialist and the ethical politics always took a
back seat. An ideological renaissance is necessary. Every decision
should be based on democratic process. The party's upcoming
13th convention will be a battleground for restoring internal
Dr Shekhar Koirala on 'New Constitution: Strength and challenge
No one should cast doubt on the nationalistic credentials of
Madhesi people. Madhesis and Tharus are fighting for identity
and access to resources and opportunities. There is need for
intensive debates on the modality demarcation of provinces and
finding a new definition of nationality. The new statute was
promulgated by overcoming uphill challenges. It was brought
through a fast-track. No matter how much better the statute
is, its implementation aspect should be strong. It requires
intense debate on the federalism. New provinces should be created
without splitting the districts. The people have emotional attachment
to the districts and if they are broken up, it triggers ethnic
CD Bhatta, FES Programme officer
Nepal is one of the oldest nations in the world but today it
has become very weak. This demands that we should do some soul-searching
as to how it became an enfeebled nation. It is necessary to
balance between freedom and equality. We have to build economy
to realise 31 kinds of rights spelt out in the new constitution.
There is need for geopolitical understanding to comprehend the
motives and factors behind the ongoing blockade. Many nations
adopted multiparty democracy after 1990 but some of them failed
to manage the internal and external conflict. As a result, their
democratic exercise was not up to scratch.
Professor Dr Bijaya Datta on 'Terai-Madhes movement, federalism
and need of nation'
Over three million children were deprived of their basic rights
of education and health owing the Terai unrest and blockade.
The state should assert itself to end impunity and anarchy.
It must curb smuggling and black market that are thriving in
the garb of agitation and economic embargo. There is a need
for launching a live debate on federal structure to ensure cultural
and political rights of the people. The positive contents of
the new statute should be propagated among the people. The copies
of statute should be sent to the villages. Blockade should be
taken as lesson for economic development. The agitating forces
should be ready for accord. The sister organizations of the
political parties should be engaged in interactions with the
people. The present government should be given a shape of national
government so that the current political turmoil can be easily
Yagya Adhikary on 'the challenges and opportunities in the
exercise of internal democracy in Nepal.'
Since the political parties have to always work with the people,
they should be strong enough to institutionalize the federal
Loktantrik statute and values. Durable peace and good governance
will be out of reach if the parties fail to promote inner party
democracy. Healthy competition is the central element of Loktantra.
The parties have to select their leadership on the basis of
clean and healthy competition. Following points are necessary
to bolster inner party democracy.
1. Clean competition for the leadership pick.
2. The participation of leaders and cadres in the deliberations
3. Institutional development of parties.
4. Proper management of internal conflict.
5. Balance between ideals and practice.
6. Adoption of decentralized thought and structures.
7. Transparency and responsibility.
8. Building inclusive structure.
9. Ending the tendency to stick lifelong to leadership.
School of Democracy (SD) chairman Nain Singh Mahar said that
the people's basic rights such as food, shelter and clothes
should be fulfilled to strengthen democracy. The SD has spread
its network to different districts and many countries in Asia,
Europe and the US.
Govinda Bhattarai on 'democracy, its stability and role
To preserve political gains looks more challenging than achieve
them. Reactionaries and dictatorial forces are posing threat
to democracy. Extreme lefts pose themselves as democrat when
they get chance but show their real colour other moments. Until
there is economic revolution, political stability remains a
distant goal. Minorities groups are manipulated to weaken democracy.
It is necessary to mobilize means and resources to mainstream
the marginalized groups.
Meen Bishwakarma on 'meaning and essence of inclusion in
Nepalese political phenomenon'
Efforts to ensure inclusion started in 1950 at the initiative
of Nepali Congress but it has not yet been fully realized. It
is the just distribution of available means, resources, opportunities
and facilities among the classes, castes, genders, regions and
religious groups, who were discriminated by the state. In Nepal,
the concept of inclusion was first introduced in 20152 BS when
Sher Bahadur Deuba-led government implemented compulsory education
system with all girl students and those from Dalit and ethnic
groups getting free secondary education. Reservation, affirmative
action and positive discrimination are some important tools
for inclusion. Reservation covers participation, empowerment
and equality, dignity and coexistence. Equality is not alone
guaranteed by the political philosophy, legal provision or social
norms. Rather it is enforced by the pragmatic use of laws. Transforming
unequal society into equal requires the application of unequal
laws with a positive purpose.
Mahendra Yadav on 'social transformation, a measure of democracy'
Democracy is in itself is perfect term. It does not need any
qualifier. Until it is taken to the grassroots and the people
are educated about its essence, it cannot be institutionalized.
Conflicts trigger transformation. There is democratic deficit
in the NC. It is infested with nepotism, favoutism and patronage.
How can the NC that is not democratic in itself democratize
Bimalendra Nidhi on 'development of inclusion in Nepalese governance
and political system'
Loktantra is not a vague topic. The rule that is based on the
needs and aspirations of the people is Loktantra. We have to
identity the areas and communities that are pushed outside the
mainstream of development. The NC has led the campaign for inclusion.
The party has guaranteed the participation of Madhesi, women,
Dalit and Karnali representatives in its internal structures.
There is need for guaranteeing the identity, representation
and ownership of the marginalized groups to strengthen democracy,
promote good governance and institutionalize the statute. The
state should identify the diversity and bring the marginalized
groups and communities to the political and governance system.
It is an uphill task to bring almost two million workers living
below the poverty line to the economic mainstream. The political
leadership should be strong and competent to implement economic
agenda aimed at creating jobs and national wealth.
From the floor
Ram Chandra Yadav asked why the NC failed to include the issues
mentioned in the interim statute in the new one. Sambhu Hajara
said that the representation of Dalit from Terai in the party
is paltry compared to the hill Dalits. Samjhana Khatri said
that the party has to address the issues of youths. Politics
is a service, not profession, she emphasized. Bishesh Joshi
said that democracy failed to deepen in the absence of development.
Kailash Nepal posed a question: Where is internal democracy
in the NC? Sarada Lama underlined the need for increasing the
representation of women from ethnic community in the party's
structures. Prabesh Kumar Chaudhari said that Terai is burning.
Although the NC led the promulgation of the new statute, it
fell on the stony ground when it came to shortening the transition.
Chakra Bahadur Joshi said that the students want to know and
internalize the values of democracy.
The NC has failed to properly disseminate the contents of the
new statute among the people. If the party had heard the voices
of its lawmakers, there would not have been the Madhesi agitation.
It can be resolved by incorporating the provisions of interim
statute in the new one. The NC should take the lead to resolve
Dr Dila Sangraula on 'progress and challenge of inclusion
in political process of Nepal'
Multiparty system is based on inclusion. A certain elite class
is taking the benefits from the reservation system. Inclusion
should ensure reconciliation. In order to promote inclusive
democracy, the state has to provide quality education to all
citizens without any discrimination. There should be consistency
between the thinking and practice. The marginalized classes
and communities should have access to resources and opportunities.
The distribution of posts should be guided by meritocracy, not
by nepotism and favoritism.
Guru Raj Ghimire on 'the role of NC in strengthening democracy'
Nepal's democracy faces threat from communists. There is no
alternative democratic party. Although the NC is democratic
party that led several democratic revolutions, it is unable
to institutionalize democratic culture. Entropy, arbitrariousness
and feudal mindset have put a crimp in the democratic credentials
of NC. The contemporary leaders have no capacity to bring prosperity
to the nation.
Diversity should be reflected in all organs of the state. The
current crisis arose owing to the mistakes committed in the
past. Of course, the CA is inclusive but its decision-making
process did not reflect inclusiveness. The decisions-making
process within the NC should be inclusive and democratic. While
in power, the party could not lay the foundation of value-based
NP Saud on 'socialization of democracy and role of youth organization'
The term 'socialisation' is akin to psychology. Democracy is
based on meritocratic system. There was not fair distribution
of rights and justice among the social groups. The new statute
has accepted the essence of democracy but the parties are not
holding their provincial conclaves. They should be restructured
in line with the federal design. The youth leaders are more
divided than their seniors. There is no alternative to social
In the absence of democratic culture, the nation has failed
to realize economic prosperity. Democracy should be used as
a means to spur growth. The Nepalese have themselves resolved
internal conflict and written the statute. The foreign meddling
should be protested strongly.
Ideology should take precedence over the individual interests.
The political terms need to be interpreted in a new way. 'Lok'
means people and land, and 'tantra' means rule. Thus, Loktantra
means the rule of the people. Our experiment with democracy
was not successful in the past.
In order to establish socialism, the socialist parties have
to fight in more than seven fronts. To implement the values
and policies of socialism is not like a cakewalk. It requires
new political vision and economic policies to address the post-statute