Waning public faith

  • Faith in the system can only be restored if leaders connect with the people at a profound emotional level.

Apr 9, 2019-

More than a decade has passed since the abolishment of monarchy in Nepal. Accusing the then king of going against the ethos of the ordinary people, the political parties had vowed to set up a new political and democratic culture in the federal republic. The champions of republicanism expressed their commitment to address the everyday problems of ordinary citizens. A strong public impression emerged that things will change for the better in every sector of society. In the political manifestos that followed, corruption was roundly condemned.

However, in the past 10 years, the problem has grown manifold and shows no signs of being resolved in the immediate future. It is pathetic to note that the activity of misusing funds is growing in public administration and politics, showing that the promise of zero tolerance was nothing more than mere rhetoric. Worse, such malpractices are occurring under political protection.

A big dream—the transformation of ordinary lives—was sold. The monarchy was purported as a major stumbling block to national prosperity. In other words, republicanism and federalism were the panaceas of all ills according to the supporters of the federal system.  Posing a grave question mark over the role of the king, the major political parties also spoke of inducing a leadership change not only as a symbolic gesture but also in terms of a substantive departure in the governing of the nation.

However, the present day activities of the different political parties in Nepal seem counter to this pledge. In fact, the scenario has become worse compared to the royal regime in terms of plundering state resources. Roads continue to be vacated in a rather showy manner, just to allow for the prime minister or president to travel. Narcissism reigns high in our political culture.Whether we refer to the activities of Prime Minister KP Oli and his cabinet or former high officials of the country, the undue desire to overexploit state resources is entrenched in  political thinking. The Office of the President has also come under a great deal of criticism for its recent decision of enhancing the facilities of President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, inflicting a heavy burden on state coffers. Similar is the case with the chiefs of the constitutional bodies who have illegally taken extravagant sums from the taxpayer. These instances clearly show the waning political culture in federal Nepal.

It is really unfortunate that the present leadership has failed to demonstrate a lifestyle that relates to the life of a common man. People opine that instead of a single king, Nepal now has several—all with insatiable desires for power and resources. None of the top leaders who fought relentlessly for a new political system in Nepal have even contemplated this. While the public statements remain full of tall promises of removing poverty from the country, a poor person living in a remote village hasn’t experienced any significant change in her life.

An interview broadcasted in a popular television channel some time ago disseminated the views of Pradip Giri, one of the rare intellectual leaders in contemporary politics. Considering moral bankruptcy as the root of all problems in Nepal, Giri urged the political leadership to demonstrate a significant change in their own lifestyle before promising people of liberation from poverty and injustice. In a more philosophical tone, he highlighted the tenets of 21st century socialism that calls for redefining the socio-cultural and political relations by adopting the values of professional integrity and mutual respect. Adding that the country can march ahead if the ministers start sending their children to public schools and bank on public hospitals for their medical treatment, he expressed his resentment over the existing political culture in the country even after introducing a sea of change in the system of governance. A deep moral crisis looms large in Nepal’s politics, and creeps out to other sectors of society.  

Hence, in the absence of behavioural and attitudinal change, the nation’s prosperity is at stake. Even a single decision in the direction of change can generate good public vibes, as we saw it during the tenure of former prime minister  Baburam Bhattarai. Despite his  weaknesses as the head of the government, people often talk of his interest in using a Nepal-made car as his official vehicle in a bid to minimise unproductive expenditure.

Public faith in the new system can only be restored if the present day leaders direct their efforts and energy in connecting with people at a profound emotional level. Although this sounds philosophical, the need is urgent in the context of a society like ours, where the trust in politics is waning. The excitement many felt in finally having a majority government in power has already lost steam.

Pokharel is a member of the social science faculty at the Whitehouse Graduate School of Management.

Published: 09-04-2019 08:48

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