THE HINDU EDITORIAL : DECEMBER 18, 2017
THE HINDU EDITORIAL : DECEMBER 18, 2017
High road to democratic stability
Nepal has been in distress for two decades, since the start of the Maoist war in early 1996, through royal autocracy, palace massacre, earthquake, foreign interference and communal polarisation. Finally, in a second try, the new Constitution was promulgated by the Constituent Assembly in September 2015. The last roadblock to its implementation was overcome with a series of local, provincial and national elections over the summer-winter of 2017. The parliamentary elections of November 26-December 7 ended the 70-year tradition of the Nepali Congress (NC) setting the political agenda in power or in dissidence. The Left alliance of the mainstream Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), or UML, and the Maoists have made a clean sweep to be able to form governments at the Centre and all but one of the seven brand new provinces. (The elected MP vote count for the five ‘national parties’ came to 80-UML, 36-Maoist, 23-NC, 11-Rashtriya Janata Party and 10-Federal Socialist Forum.)
While this weakening of opposition is cause for concern, Nepal finally seems set for a stable government with longevity beyond a year. To begin with, Nepal’s adherence to republicanism, federalism and its own brand of secularism are now set in stone, while earlier there was the fear of backsliding. The placement of elected representatives in three tiers from local, provincial to national — including in the restive Tarai plains — means there is now buy-in for the Constitution from all political stakeholders. New Delhi’s overt show of displeasure regarding the constitutional promulgation too has been overcome through sheer national public will. The citizenry feels empowered for having participated in each key episode of the last decade, including the People’s Movement of 2006, blocking attempts at communal arson, and overcoming the five-month blockade of 2015-16. The new Constitution marks an innovation in the South Asian landscape, with devolution of fiscal, legislative, executive and other powers not to two but three tier ‘sarkars’. Besides the national Parliament, the Constitution has empowered representative government in the seven provinces, 17 cities, 276 towns and 460 village municipalities. Emerging from a history of Kathmandu-centrism and two decades without elected local government, today an entire superstructure of representation is in place. Says the constitutionalist Nilamber Acharya: “A system of democratic filtering is in place, and there is excitement among the people to experiment with this new system.”
While the caretaker Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, deserves all credit for guiding society through the maze of elections, he did run a lacklustre campaign and will not be thanked for the debilitation of the country’s premier democratic party. While NC voters remained loyal, the Maoist swing vote and the romantic call of ‘Left unity’ made all the difference. During the Dashain holidays, the UML sprang a surprise, enticing Maoist Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal (‘Prachanda’) away from the Congress with the promise of 60-40% share of seats in the provincial/national elections of November-December. This was a godsend for the Maoist party in decline. Mr. Deuba’s poor oratory could not stand against the UML’s firebrand Khadga Prasad Oli, who rode the nationalist plank against the vivid backdrop of the blockade. Mr. Deuba’s dire warnings that the communists as threats to democracy lacked credibility because of his own earlier embrace of Mr. Dahal.
All eyes are now on Mr. Oli, having emerged as paramount leader with both electoral and populist power. Under the new rules, a no-confidence motion against a new government cannot be brought for two years, and it is likely that he will get to complete a full five-year term. This situation has been unavailable to any of his predecessors in the entire modern era. The new Prime Minister’s biggest success will be to ‘neutralise’ the Maoist party — through power-sharing or unification — and Mr. Dahal may be agreeable as his main worry of late has been to keep the cadre placated. In his previous stint as Prime Minister, Mr. Oli had almost brought the transitional justice process to a successful closure, including accountability for conflict-era excesses. The peace process will not be complete till this is done, and Mr. Oli’s staying the course will ensure long-term peace and represent a victory for liberal democracy. Beyond the Maoists, Mr. Oli will have to build a working relationship not only with the NC but also the plains-based parties with whom he has been combative. Democratic stability would, ipso facto, release long-pending economic energy for which the new Prime Minister will have to fight rather than join the crony capitalists who have entrapped the political economy during the decade of “political transition”. The economy has to start galloping, creating jobs for the young workforce, including the millions in West Asia, Malaysia and India likely to return due to pushes and pulls beyond Nepal’s control. This requires movement on infrastructure projects, agro-forestry, tourism, service industries and irrigated agriculture in the Tarai plains. The new Prime Minister will need to mend fences with New Delhi, energised by the strength of his electoral mandate. Based on the set of agreements signed in Beijing during his earlier stint at Singha Durbar, Mr. Oli is expected to accelerate connectivity to the north, utilising the Chinese railway network that has arrived on the Tibetan plateau. Kathmandu does not yet fully understand Beijing’s super-charged geopolitical agenda, but a confident Mr. Oli can be expected to seek a respectful rather than obsequious relationship. As the commentator Jainendra Jeevan wrote last week, “We don’t want another ‘India’ across the northern border.” Nepal having become a feeble international player due to autocracy, conflict and transition, Mr. Oli has an opportunity to bring international respectability back to a level not seen since the time of B.P. Koirala in the 1950s. Insecurities having been dealt with, the confidence of the new republic will also be seen in shifting the office and residence of the President of Nepal from Shital Niwas to the former Narayanhiti Royal Palace. The ride to democratic stability is bound to be bumpy, not least because the Constitution — written by politicians rather than jurists and constitutionalists — is so ‘magnanimous’ that it will be a challenge to implement. Hundreds of laws need drafting, the grey areas in the inter-relationships between the three levels of government have to be clarified. The concurrent list detailing the rights and responsibilities of not two but three tiers makes Nepal’s experiment unique. Already, one can sense reluctance among the topmost leadership and bureaucracy to devolve power to local government as mandated by the Constitution. The newborn Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court will need to gear up to tackle the deluge. There are enough triggers out there for social discontent to erupt. The profligacy of the last decade of “consensus governance” has emptied the national coffers even as expenditure is set to rise to meet the needs of local and provincial administration. The post-earthquake reconstruction of households, infrastructure and heritage structures has yet to gather steam. There is a sharp difference in the economic status of the seven federal units, with Province No. 1 (in the East) and No. 3 (including Kathmandu Valley) the best placed in the GDP and human development indices. An equalisation protocol is the need of the hour. The power devolved to provincial and local government is liable to expose the population to mistreatment, from economic crimes to human rights abuse. Civil liberty forums must rise to the occasion in all seven provinces, to watchdog all tiers. A society heading out into uncharted waters amid economic, political and geopolitical challenges is asked to implement the democratic, inclusive and social justice-oriented ideals that are to be found in the Constitution of Nepal (2015).
Meaning: A state or society governed by one person with absolute power.
Example: “The Grand Duchy of Tuscany was an autocracy”
Synonyms: Absolutism, Despotism
Meaning: Promote or make widely known (an idea or cause).
Example: “These objectives have to be promulgated within the organization”
Synonyms: Publicize, Spread
Meaning: A plan of things to be done or problems to be addressed.
Example:”He vowed to put jobs at the top of his agenda”
Synonyms: Schedule, Programme
Meaning: Protest against official policy.
Example: “The decree’s purpose was to suppress the dissidence of the minority tribes in the eastern states”
Synonyms: Disagreement, Dissent
Antonyms: Agreement, Acceptance
Meaning: A union or association formed for mutual benefit, especially between countries or organizations.
Example:”A defensive alliance between Australia and New Zealand”
Synonyms: Association, Union
Meaning: Attachment or commitment to a person, cause, or belief.
Example: “A strict adherence to etiquette”
Meaning: The principle of separation of the state from religious institutions.
Example:”He believes that secularism means no discrimination against anybody in the name of religion”
Meaning: Relapse into bad ways or error.
Example:”There are many things that can cause slimmers to backslide”
Synonyms: Relapse, Lapse,
Antonyms: Persevere, Progress
Meaning: The criminal act of deliberately setting fire to property.
Example: “Police are treating the fire as arson”
Synonyms: Pyromania, Incendiarism
Meaning: Lacking in vitality, force, or conviction; uninspired or uninspiring.
Example: “No excuses were made for the team’s lacklustre performance”
Synonyms: Uninspired, Colourless
Antonyms: Inspired, Brilliant
Meaning: Attractive or tempting; alluring.
Example: “An enticing prospect”
Meaning: A person who is very passionate about a particular cause.
Example:”A political firebrand”
Synonyms: Radical, Revolutionary
Meaning: Producing powerful feelings or strong, clear images in the mind.
Example: “Memories of that evening were still vivid”
Synonyms: Graphic, Evocative
Antonyms: Vague, Boring
Meaning: Extremely serious or urgent.
Example:”Misuse of drugs can have dire consequences”
Synonyms: Terrible, Dreadful
Antonyms: Good, Mild
Meaning: Accept (a belief, theory, or change) willingly and enthusiastically.
Example: “Besides traditional methods, artists are embracing new technology”
Synonyms: Welcome, Accept
Meaning: More important than anything else; supreme.
Example: “The interests of the child are of paramount importance”
Synonyms: Uppermost, Supreme
Meaning: A person who held a job or office before the current holder.
Example:”The new President’s foreign policy is very similar to that of his predecessor”
Synonyms: Precursor, Forerunner
Meaning: A small group of people specially trained for a particular purpose or profession.
Example: “A cadre of professional managers”
Synonyms: Team, Corps
Meaning: A person’s fixed or allotted period of work.
Example: “His varied career included a stint as a magician”
Synonyms: Spell, Stretch
Meaning: Ready or eager to fight or argue.
Example:”He made some enemies with his combative style”
Synonyms: Pugnacious, Aggressive
Meaning: A close friend or companion.
Example:”He went gambling with his cronies”
Meaning: Catch in or as in a trap.
Example: “Discarded fishing lines can entrap wildlife”
Synonyms: Trap, Snare
Meaning: Proceed at great speed.
Example: “Don’t gallop through your speech”
Meaning: Improve (an unpleasant situation).
Example:”Quarrels could be mended by talking”
Synonyms: Remedy, Right
Antonyms: Make worse
Meaning: Obedient or attentive to an excessive or servile degree.
Example: “They were served by obsequious waiters”
Synonyms: Servile, Ingratiating
Meaning: Lacking physical strength, especially as a result of age or illness.
Example:”By now, he was too feeble to leave his room”
Synonyms: Weak, Weakly
Meaning: (Of a journey or other movement) involving sudden jolts and jerks.
Example: “The bumpy flight brought on a bout of airsickness”
Synonyms: Bouncy, Rough
Antonyms: Smooth, Consistent
Meaning: Generous or forgiving, especially towards a rival or less powerful person.
Example:”She should be magnanimous in victory”
Synonyms: Generous, Charitable
Antonyms: Selfish, Mean-spirited
Meaning: Unwillingness or disinclination to do something.
Example:”She sensed his reluctance to continue”
Synonyms: Unwillingness, Disinclination
Antonyms: Willingness, Eagerness
Meaning: Excessively complicated administrative procedure.
Example: “The unnecessary bureaucracy in local government”
Synonyms: Red tape, Etiquette
Meaning: Transfer or delegate (power) to a lower level, especially from central government to local or regional administration.
Example: “Measures to devolve power to a Scottish assembly”
Synonyms: Delegate, Assign
Antonyms: Centralize, Retain
Meaning: A great quantity of something arriving at the same time.
Example: “A deluge of complaints”
Synonyms: Barrage, Volley
Meaning: Break out suddenly and dramatically.
Example:”Fierce fighting erupted between the army and guerrillas”
Synonyms: Break out, Flare up
Antonyms: Die down
Meaning: Reckless extravagance or wastefulness in the use of resources.
Example:”The government returned to fiscal profligacy”
Meaning: A general agreement.
Example:”There is a growing consensus that the current regime has failed”
Synonyms: Agreement, Harmony
Meaning: A strongbox or small chest for holding valuables.
Example:”A battered leather coffer sealed with a waxen crest”
Synonyms: Strongbox, Money box
Meaning: A person or group that monitors the practices of companies providing a particular service or utility.
Example:”The consumer watchdog for transport in London”
Synonyms: Ombudsman, Monitor
38) Heading out
Meaning: “To head out” means “to leave” and implies that there is a specific purpose or destination.
Example: Make sure you eat breakfast before you head out.
Meaning: (Of an area of land or sea) not mapped or surveyed.
Example: “The plane landed on a previously uncharted islet”
Synonyms: Unexplored, untravelled
Meaning: Surrounded by; in the middle of.
Example: “Our dream home, set amid magnificent rolling countryside”
Synonyms: Among, Between
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