I want to preface this blog by clarifying that what I am positing here is not an attack on anybody’s personal integrity but an attempt to reveal a tendency, perhaps all too human, that often underpins our political biases and colors our vision in such a way that we lose sight of the future.
The political bias I am going to describe here is something that I prefer to call as “the bias of the present,” or, in other words, the tendency to view current political climate as though it is going to continue as it is forever in the future. Adam Gopnik, a popular writer for the US-based magazine, “The New Yorker,” calls it “presentism,” which he defines as, “an assumption that what is happening now is going to keep on happening, without anything happening to stop it.” I prefer to use the word “bias” because of the unreasonable prejudice attached to this kind of thinking.
This kind of bias in thinking is now famously attributed to Francis Fukuyama, the renowned political thinker, who, at one time, declared that the world had come to an “end of history” with liberal capitalist democracies being the climactic endpoint. Fukuyama, who is still pilloried for his rather Panglossian view, argued that countries all over the world were becoming more freer, more liberal, more tolerant, and getting closer and closer to a utopia very similar to the liberal democracies in the West. Fukuyama’s grand utterances are seen today as a cautionary—and an instructive—moment for public intellectuals who are inclined to make sweeping claims about the future by simply looking at the current trends.
Sadly, the current Bibeksheel Sajha Party (BSP), which was supposed to represent the optimism of the youths in the country, seems to be doing a Fukuyama in reverse. Rabindra Mishra and his like-minded coterie in the current BSP formed after the recent purges, are engaged in an overly pessimistic portrayal of present Nepal and have accordingly projected a pessimistic future for the country as though the situation can only get worse from here. Under Mishra, the current BSP apparatus seems almost eager to see the current situation spiral out of control so that their egos will be satisfied, and their recently espoused political lines, vindicated. But in so doing, Mishra and the BSP have not only led the movement of the youths astray but have also muddled the public perception by overestimating their own power while underestimating the fundamental feature of a democracy, namely its auto-correctional tendencies.
In the past BSP was popular among the youths because the party embodied the hopes and optimism that can only spring from the resourceful idealism and energy of the young people. No one expected BSP to form a viable alternative to the prevailing political parties, but everyone took pleasure from the fact that the youths were raising the consciousness of the public by demanding accountability from public officials and showing a new possibility for the future. Alongside the civil society, BSP stood at a sweet spot (call it the Goldilocks of Nepali politics), just outside the fray of everyday politics, but also within it in such a way that it could act both as a party, demanding accountability and good governance, but also as an idealisticentity that projected an optimistic and much-needed normative framework for the future of the country’s politics. The party was extremely successful given its limited reach and resources. The demonstrations against Nepal Banda, in particular, became a huge success while the party also gained enormous support in its fight against government corruption and incompetency, especially in the demonstrations against increasing instances of rapes and sexual assaults around the country.
The party was doing exactly what it was supposed to do until Mishra woke up one morning and blindsided his own party members—who had sacrificed their youthful energy, time, and resources—by highjacking the party and free riding on its goodwill. An idealistic party that represented hope for the future was overnight turned into an in-group that delighted in the same muck that it was supposed to transcend.
Now, there is no doubt that Rabindra Mishra is a gentleman who is genuinely worried about the current state of affairs in the country. In fact, as someone who is extremely self-aware of his public persona, Mishra, in my opinion, is willing to maintain a level of honesty and transparency that has not yet been seen from any of our leaders. There is no doubt in his honest endeavors. However, a nice coiffeur and a bright persona can only take you so far when the political line you have chosen depends on painting a dark picture. Mishra has, either wittingly or unwittingly, narrowed the imagination of the youths in the country by taking their movement to a dead end. He has done a great disservice by putting his ego before the ethos of the youths.
Most importantly though, Mishra and the current BSP are omitting a fundamental difference between the current political system—however flawed—that we have versus the system that they are advocating for: the system that we currently have has an inbuilt feature that will slowly but effectively autocorrect its mistakes, while the system that the current BSP is advocating for has an inbuilt bug that will only rear its ugly head again and again.
Like many others, I looked at BSP as a party of youths who were not beholden to any established political power. Despite its limited clout, the party was able to transcend the filth of Nepali politics and demand accountability by galvanizing the youths who brought new energy, vision, and optimism to an otherwise ossified party culture in Nepal. Just as the Nepali people were only beginning to believe and share the idealism of the youths, the bias of the present took over BSP and brought the project to a screeching halt.