Social Science Baha

Neither Exclusionary Nor Inclusive: Political Elite’s Attitudes and Behaviour in Democratising Multi-ethnic Nepal, 1990-2002

Mahendra Lawoti

The paper investigates the role of the political elite in exclusion in Nepal through an analysis of their attitudes (structured survey) and behaviour (public policies/institutions). A survey of 101 Nepali parliamentarians in 2000 demonstrates a complex scenario. While the elite were highly tolerant, which indicate that they did not possess exclusionary attitudes, some level of racism existed among them. The apparent contradiction between the tolerant but racist attitudes can be reconciled if we distinguish between the lack of exclusionary attitudes from that of having inclusive attitudes. The elite may not have been exclusionary but they were not inclusive either. The attitudinal findings are supported by an analysis of policies that affected inclusion/exclusion during the 1990-2002 and post 2006 years when regime change led to a political transformation. While dissent and mobilization of the marginalised groups were tolerated and very few harmful policies were introduced, major reforms were lacking and only cosmetic policies were formulated during the 1990s. On the other hand, the post 2006 years saw major inclusive institutional reforms, which occurred due to the pressure of the Maoists and mobilization of the Madhesi, indigenous nationalities and Dalit movements, and not at the initiatives of the political elite.