A democratic nightmare
- A sure way of killing democratic culture is by jettisoning collective decision-making.
Apr 11, 2019-
It is now an open secret that Prime Minister KP Oli wants to involve as few people as possible when it comes to decision making. A small coterie of people usually take decisions—big or small—and the information is trickled down to other members in the cabinet and his own party, too. When the winter session of the federal Parliament concluded on March 25, the prime minister had called a meeting. There, he talked a great deal about the government’s achievements, and instructed party lawmakers to spread the message of the successes among the people. But it was a monologue, not a dialogue. The lawmakers present there could listen to him, but were not given a chance to engage in a conversation.The leader of the opposition, Sher Bahadur Deuba, is of a similar disposition. Time and again, his party members have accused him of making decisions unilaterally without indulging in deliberation and consultation with Nepali Congress Party members. When leaders start behaving independently and show little regard for what other team members have to say, democracy remains only in name. In fact, a sure way of killing the democratic culture is by jettisoning the collective decision making process.
For example, last year in April, Prime Minister Oli had transferred 30 of the 48 secretaries without consulting the ministers and the party’s co-chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Obviously, this decision had not gone down well with many of his cabinet members. More recently in January, when a meeting of the Constitutional Council decided to recommend names for the five constitutional bodies, the leader of the main opposition, Nepali Congress, was not present. What’s more, because of a lack of dialogue and proper interaction, the Nepal Communist Party is still scrambling to complete its unification process. The opposition leader, Deuba, on the other hand, has formed long overdue disciplinary, election and regulation drafting committees within the Congress Party. However, Deuba had called the meeting at his residence with only a few party members attending it.
Be it the leader of the ruling party or the opposition, in a democracy, the person in charge has to give up ownership and control of a decision and allow for a wider audience to engage in the process. When decisions are taken democratically, the process becomes transparent and it is perceived as being fair, and the people involved can easily make out where the process begins and ends. Oli and Deuba need to realise that cooperative problem-solving and engaging in dialogue works better in the long run.
Decades ago, these same leaders had consigned the Panchayat system—a system of autocratic rule—to the dustbin of history in favour of a democratic system which promised to give a voice to all. Now, the tables have turned and our present day leaders, who were mere subjects in the past, are what make up the status quo. It would bode well for them to realise that insulating oneself from outside suggestions does not help in informed decision-making. Neither does it help to make the hard-earned democracy a thriving one.
Published: 11-04-2019 11:10