Ideology is to a political party what capital city is to a country: the center from which authority and structure emanate. Kathmandu no longer calls all the shots in the new federal setup. Yet if there were to be no common federal capital, the federal project would unravel amid chaos and anarchy. Kathmandu sets broad contours for the country’s governance, offering a framework within which individual provinces and local units operate. Likewise, a political party is established around a central ideology around which other party structures and personnel coalesce.
Business-minded Nepali Congress leaders often make a mockery of the party’s governing ideology of ‘democratic socialism’. Similarly, CPN-UML’s power-grabbing top-brass often give a lie to ‘people’s multiparty democracy’, the party’s unique brand of communism. Yet even when their leaders and cadres go astray, they can always rally around the unifying ideology. Such ideology gives political parties unity and coherence, the glue with which to bind the loose organization. In its absence, political parties can quickly lose direction and unravel, as we saw with Rabindra Mishra’s Sajha Party or other Nepali outfits that have been formed around themes like anti-corruption and good governance.
When the popular TV presenter Rabi Lamichhane announced his new Rastriya Swatantra Party on June 21, he too promised to root out corruption and give the country the kind of politics it needs. But he outlined no governing ideology for his party. Catchy slogans and personality cults might be able to amass votes in the short run but for the party’s sustainability it must have an underlying political ideology.
What do the new party’s adherents believe in, for instance, that those of Congress or UML don’t? In the party unveiling ceremony, Lamichhane only outlined its functioning and structure, promising to work out the nitty-gritty later. We earnestly hope that the party can in the near future also settle on its core ideology. The country desperately needs alternative political forces. It would be a tragedy if Lamichanne’s new outfit, unmoored by lack of political ideology, too veers fatally off-course.