International Development Planning Review

A compromising consensus? Legitimising local government in post-conflict Nepal

International Development Planning Review (2014), 36, (4), 435–453.

Abstract

This article analyses the ways in which claims to local government authority are legitimated in post-conflict Nepal, where interim arrangements bridge a situation in which elected government have not been in place since 2002. On the basis of our analysis of local development planning processes, we show how contested local government authority is worked out through a series of compromises. Central to the functioning of these compromises is the process of consensus, which serves two important functions. The first is that consensus is used to legitimate the various compromises necessary for local government to function in a context where the rules and authority of local government are caught in a lengthy ‘transitional’ ad-interim arrangement. Consensus also serves as a counter-political strategy that helps create the conditions for civil co-existence, or what has been termed ‘rough and ready civility’. This civil co-existence is an important enabling condition for local politicians to reach the compromises necessary for day-to-day decisions to be taken. However, compromise also has its limits and it can potentially be compromising to participants.

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INLOGOS (2009), Assessment of Village Development Committee Governance and the Use of Block Grants, Kathmandu, Ministry of Local Development and the United Nations Development Programme. Google Scholar

KORF, B. (2010), ‘The Geography of Participation’, Third World Quarterly, 31, 709-20. ‘The Geography of Participation’ Third World Quarterly 31 709 20 Google Scholar

KORF, B., ENGELER, M. and HAGMANN, T. (2010), ‘The Geography of Warscape’, Third World Quarterly, 31, 385-99. ‘The Geography of Warscape’ Third World Quarterly 31 385 99 Google Scholar

LAL, C. K. (2013), ‘The Burma Road’, Republica, Kathmandu, 25 February. Google Scholar

LUND, C. (2006), ‘Twilight Institutions: Public Authority and Local Politics in Africa’, Development and Change, 37, 685-705. ‘Twilight Institutions: Public Authority and Local Politics in Africa’ Development and Change 37 685 705 Google Scholar

MANANDHAR, P. and SEDDON, D. (eds) (2010), In Hope and Fear: Living Through the People's War in Nepal, Delhi, Adroit. In Hope and Fear: Living Through the People's War in Nepal Google Scholar

MARGALIT, A. (2010), On Compromise and Rotten Compromises, Princeton and Oxford, Princeton University Press. On Compromise and Rotten Compromises Google Scholar

MEHTA, L., ET AL. (1999), Exploring Understandings of Institutions and Uncertainty: New Directions in Natural Resource Management, (IDS Discussion Paper), Brighton, Institute of Development Studies. Exploring Understandings of Institutions and Uncertainty: New Directions in Natural Resource Management Google Scholar

MILLER, C. J. (2000), Decision-Making in Village Nepal, Varanasi and Kathmandu, Pilgrims Publishing. Decision-Making in Village Nepal Google Scholar

MOUFFE, C. (2005), On the Political, London, Routledge. On the Political Google Scholar

MURRAY LI, T. (1999), ‘Compromising Power: Development, Culture and Rule in Indonesia’, Cultural Anthropology, 14, 295-322. ‘Compromising Power: Development, Culture and Rule in Indonesia’ Cultural Anthropology 14 295 322 Google Scholar

MURRAY LI, T. (2005), ‘Beyond "the State" and Failed Schemes’, American Anthropologist, 107, 383-94. ‘Beyond "the State" and Failed Schemes’ American Anthropologist 107 383 94 Google Scholar

MURRAY LI, T. (2007), The Will to Improve: Governmentality, Development, and the Practice of Politics, Durham and London, Duke University Press. The Will to Improve: Governmentality, Development, and the Practice of Politics Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

NIGHTINGALE, A. J. and OJHA, H. R. (2013), ‘Rethinking Power and Authority: Symbolic Violence and Subjectivity in Nepal's Terai Forests’, Development and Change, 44, 29-51. ‘Rethinking Power and Authority: Symbolic Violence and Subjectivity in Nepal's Terai Forests’ Development and Change 44 29 51 Google Scholar

OGURA, K. (2008), ‘Maoist People's Governments 2001-2005: The Power in Wartime’, in Gellner, D. N. and Hachhethu, K. (eds), Local Democracy in South Asia: Microprocesses of Democratisation in Nepal and its Neighbours, Delhi, Sage, 175-231. Local Democracy in South Asia: Microprocesses of Democratisation in Nepal and its Neighbours 175 231 Google Scholar

OLLIEUZ, A. (2011), ‘The Political History of Indagru VDC’, New Angle Nepal Journal of Social Science and Public Policy, 1, 32-48. ‘The Political History of Indagru VDC’ New Angle Nepal Journal of Social Science and Public Policy 1 32 48 Google Scholar

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PETTIGREW, J. (2013), Maoists at the Hearth: Everyday Life in Nepal's Civil War, Pittsburgh, University of Pennsylvania Press. Maoists at the Hearth: Everyday Life in Nepal's Civil War Google Scholar

PETTIGREW, J. and ADHIKARI, K. (2009), ‘Fear and everyday life in rural Nepal’, Dialectical Anthropology, 33, 403-22. ‘Fear and everyday life in rural Nepal’ Dialectical Anthropology 33 403 22 Google Scholar

RAMIREZ, P. (2000), De la disparition des chefs: Une anthropologie politique népalaise, Paris, CNRS Editions. De la disparition des chefs: Une anthropologie politique népalaise Google Scholar

RANCIÈRE, J. (1999), Dis-agreement: Politics and Philosophy, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press. Dis-agreement: Politics and Philosophy Google Scholar

ROY, I. (2013), ‘Contesting Consensus. Disputing Inequality: Agonistic Subjectivities in Rural Bihar’, South Asia Multidisciplinary Journal. ‘Contesting Consensus. Disputing Inequality: Agonistic Subjectivities in Rural Bihar’ South Asia Multidisciplinary Journal Google Scholar

SCOTT, J. C. (1998), Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, New Haven, Yale University Press. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed Google Scholar

SHAH, A. (2007), ‘"Keeping the state away": democracy, politics and the state in India's Jharkhand’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 13, 129-45. ‘"Keeping the state away": democracy, politics and the state in India's Jharkhand’ Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 13 129 45 Google Scholar

SHARROCK, J. (2013), ‘Stability in Transition: Development Perspectives and Local Politics in Nepal’, European Bulletin of Himalayan Studies, 42, 9-38. ‘Stability in Transition: Development Perspectives and Local Politics in Nepal’ European Bulletin of Himalayan Studies 42 9 38 Google Scholar

SHNEIDERMAN, S. and TURIN, M. (2010), ‘Negotiating Nepal's Two Polities: A View from Dolakha’, in Manandhar, P. and Seddon, D. (eds), In Hope and Fear: Living Through the People's War in Nepal, Delhi, Adroit, 200-13. In Hope and Fear: Living Through the People's War in Nepal 200 13 Google Scholar

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SNELLINGER, A. (forthcoming), ‘The production of possibility through an impossible ideal: Consensus as a political value in Nepal's Constituent Assembly’ Article under review. ‘The production of possibility through an impossible ideal: Consensus as a political value in Nepal's Constituent Assembly’ Article under review Google Scholar

SPENCER, J. (2007), Anthropology, Politics and the State: Democracy and Violence in South Asia, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. Anthropology, Politics and the State: Democracy and Violence in South Asia Google Scholar

STEPPUTAT, F. (2001), ‘Urbanising the Countryside: Armed Conflict, State Formation, and the Politics of Place in Contemporary Guatemala’, in Hansen, T. B. and Stepputat, F. (eds), States of Imagination: Ethographic Explorations of the Postcolonial State, Durham, Duke University Press, 284-312. States of Imagination: Ethographic Explorations of the Postcolonial State 284 312 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

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VAN DEN HOVE, S. (2006), ‘Between consensus and compromise: acknowledging the negotiation dimension in participatory approaches’, Land Use Policy, 23, 10-17. ‘Between consensus and compromise: acknowledging the negotiation dimension in participatory approaches’ Land Use Policy 23 10 17 Google Scholar

VANDEKERCKHOVE, N. (2011), ‘The State, the Rebel and the Chief: Public Authority and Land Disputes in Assam, India’, Development and Change, 42, 759-79. ‘The State, the Rebel and the Chief: Public Authority and Land Disputes in Assam, India’ Development and Change 42 759 79 Google Scholar

WYDRA, H. (2000), Continuities in Poland's permanent transition, Basingstoke, Macmillan. Continuities in Poland's permanent transition Google Scholar

ADHIKARI, A. (2010), ‘Long wait for local government’, Himal South Asian, October 2010. ‘Long wait for local government’ Himal South Asian Google Scholar

ADHIKARI, A. (2012), ‘Revolution by Other Means: The Transformation of Nepal's Maoists in a Time of Peace’, in Von Einsiedel, S., Malone, D. M. and Pradhan, S. (eds), Nepal in Transition: From People's War to Fragile Peace, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 265-83. Nepal in Transition: From People's War to Fragile Peace 265 83 Google Scholar

ASIA FOUNDATION (2012), Political Economy Analysis of Local Governance in Nepal, Kathmandu, The Asia Foundation. Google Scholar

BARAL, L. R. (1977), Oppositional Politics in Nepal, New Delhi, Abhinav Publications. Oppositional Politics in Nepal Google Scholar

BARAL, U. N. (2008), ‘Local Democracy and Local Development: A Case Study of Dhikur Pokhari Village Development Committee, Kaski, Nepal’, in Gellner, D. N. and Hachhethu, K. (eds), Local Democracy in South Asia: Microprocesses of Democratization in Nepal and its Neighbours, Delhi, Sage, 232-57. Local Democracy in South Asia: Microprocesses of Democratization in Nepal and its Neighbours 232 57 Google Scholar

BERRY, S. (2004), ‘Reinventing the local? Privatization, decentralization and the politics of resource management: Examples from Africa’, African Study Monographs, 25, 79-101. ‘Reinventing the local? Privatization, decentralization and the politics of resource management: Examples from Africa’ African Study Monographs 25 79 101 Google Scholar

BHATTARAI, K., CONWAY, D. and NANDA R. SHRESTHA, N. (2002), ‘The vacillating evolution of forestry in Nepal: Historically manipulated, internally mismanaged’, International Development Planning Review, 24, 315-38. ‘The vacillating evolution of forestry in Nepal: Historically manipulated, internally mismanaged’ International Development Planning Review 24 315 38 Google Scholar

BHATTARAI, P. (2010), ‘Messy local governance’, Republica, Kathmandu, 17 November. Google Scholar

BYRNE, S. and CHHETRI, B. (2010), Preparing an Inclusive and Integrated Local Development Plan: Experiences and Lessons Learned from Six VDCs, NSCFP Discussion Papers, Kathmandu, Nepal Swiss Community Forestry Project. Preparing an Inclusive and Integrated Local Development Plan: Experiences and Lessons Learned from Six VDCs Google Scholar

BYRNE, S. and KLEM, B. (forthcoming), ‘Constructing legitimacy in post-war transition: The return of ‘normal’ politics in Nepal and Sri Lanka?’ Article under review. ‘Constructing legitimacy in post-war transition: The return of ‘normal’ politics in Nepal and Sri Lanka?’ Article under review Google Scholar

CAMERON, J. D. (2009), ‘"Development is a bag of cement": the infrapolitics of participatory budgeting in the Andes’, Development in Practice, 19, 692-701. ‘"Development is a bag of cement": the infrapolitics of participatory budgeting in the Andes’ Development in Practice 19 692 701 Google Scholar

CARTER CENTRE (2011a), Carter Centre Observations on Political Parties in Local Bodies, Kathmandu, The Carter Centre. Google Scholar

CARTER CENTRE (2011b), Political Space in Nepal: An Assessment of Recent Changes and Future Challenges, Kathmandu, The Carter Centre. Google Scholar

CHHOTRAY, V. (2007), ‘The ‘Anti-politics machine’ in India: Depoliticisation through local institution building for participatory watershed development’, Journal of Development Studies, 43, 1037-56. ‘The ‘Anti-politics machine’ in India: Depoliticisation through local institution building for participatory watershed development’ Journal of Development Studies 43 1037 56 Google Scholar

FERGUSON, J. (1990), The anti-politics machine: ‘development’, depoliticization and bureaucratic power in Lesotho, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. The anti-politics machine: ‘development’, depoliticization and bureaucratic power in Lesotho Google Scholar

GELLNER, D. N. (2007), ‘Introduction: Transformations of the Nepalese State’, in Gellner, D. N. (ed.), Resistance and the State: Nepalese Experiences, New York, Berghan Books, 1-30. Resistance and the State: Nepalese Experiences 1 30 Google Scholar

GUPTA, A. (1995), ‘Blurred Boundaries: The Discourse of Corruption, the Culture of Politics, and the Imagined State’, American Ethnologist, 22, 375-402. ‘Blurred Boundaries: The Discourse of Corruption, the Culture of Politics, and the Imagined State’ American Ethnologist 22 375 402 Google Scholar

HANSEN, T. B. and STEPPUTAT, F. (2001), ‘Introduction: States of Imagination’, in Hansen, T. B. and Stepputat, F. (eds), States of Imagination: Ethnographic Explorations of the Postcolonial State, Durham, Duke University Press, 1-38. States of Imagination: Ethnographic Explorations of the Postcolonial State 1 38 Google Scholar

HASBULLAH, S. and KORF, B. (2013), ‘Muslim geographies, violence and the antinomies of community in eastern Sri Lanka’, The Geographical Journal, 179, 32-43. ‘Muslim geographies, violence and the antinomies of community in eastern Sri Lanka’ The Geographical Journal 179 32 43 Google Scholar

HEATON SHRESTHA, C. and ADHIKARI, R. (2010), ‘Antipolitics and Counterpolitics in Nepal's Civil Society: The Case of Nepal's Citizens' Movement’, VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 21, 293-316. ‘Antipolitics and Counterpolitics in Nepal's Civil Society: The Case of Nepal's Citizens' Movement’ VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations 21 293 316 Google Scholar

HEFFERNAN, R. (2002), ‘"The Possible as the Art of Politics": Understanding Consensus Politics’, Political Studies, 50, 742-60. ‘"The Possible as the Art of Politics": Understanding Consensus Politics’ Political Studies 50 742 60 Google Scholar

INLOGOS (2009), Assessment of Village Development Committee Governance and the Use of Block Grants, Kathmandu, Ministry of Local Development and the United Nations Development Programme. Google Scholar

KORF, B. (2010), ‘The Geography of Participation’, Third World Quarterly, 31, 709-20. ‘The Geography of Participation’ Third World Quarterly 31 709 20 Google Scholar

KORF, B., ENGELER, M. and HAGMANN, T. (2010), ‘The Geography of Warscape’, Third World Quarterly, 31, 385-99. ‘The Geography of Warscape’ Third World Quarterly 31 385 99 Google Scholar

LAL, C. K. (2013), ‘The Burma Road’, Republica, Kathmandu, 25 February. Google Scholar

LUND, C. (2006), ‘Twilight Institutions: Public Authority and Local Politics in Africa’, Development and Change, 37, 685-705. ‘Twilight Institutions: Public Authority and Local Politics in Africa’ Development and Change 37 685 705 Google Scholar

MANANDHAR, P. and SEDDON, D. (eds) (2010), In Hope and Fear: Living Through the People's War in Nepal, Delhi, Adroit. In Hope and Fear: Living Through the People's War in Nepal Google Scholar

MARGALIT, A. (2010), On Compromise and Rotten Compromises, Princeton and Oxford, Princeton University Press. On Compromise and Rotten Compromises Google Scholar

MEHTA, L., ET AL. (1999), Exploring Understandings of Institutions and Uncertainty: New Directions in Natural Resource Management, (IDS Discussion Paper), Brighton, Institute of Development Studies. Exploring Understandings of Institutions and Uncertainty: New Directions in Natural Resource Management Google Scholar

MILLER, C. J. (2000), Decision-Making in Village Nepal, Varanasi and Kathmandu, Pilgrims Publishing. Decision-Making in Village Nepal Google Scholar

MOUFFE, C. (2005), On the Political, London, Routledge. On the Political Google Scholar

MURRAY LI, T. (1999), ‘Compromising Power: Development, Culture and Rule in Indonesia’, Cultural Anthropology, 14, 295-322. ‘Compromising Power: Development, Culture and Rule in Indonesia’ Cultural Anthropology 14 295 322 Google Scholar

MURRAY LI, T. (2005), ‘Beyond "the State" and Failed Schemes’, American Anthropologist, 107, 383-94. ‘Beyond "the State" and Failed Schemes’ American Anthropologist 107 383 94 Google Scholar

MURRAY LI, T. (2007), The Will to Improve: Governmentality, Development, and the Practice of Politics, Durham and London, Duke University Press. The Will to Improve: Governmentality, Development, and the Practice of Politics Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

NIGHTINGALE, A. J. and OJHA, H. R. (2013), ‘Rethinking Power and Authority: Symbolic Violence and Subjectivity in Nepal's Terai Forests’, Development and Change, 44, 29-51. ‘Rethinking Power and Authority: Symbolic Violence and Subjectivity in Nepal's Terai Forests’ Development and Change 44 29 51 Google Scholar

OGURA, K. (2008), ‘Maoist People's Governments 2001-2005: The Power in Wartime’, in Gellner, D. N. and Hachhethu, K. (eds), Local Democracy in South Asia: Microprocesses of Democratisation in Nepal and its Neighbours, Delhi, Sage, 175-231. Local Democracy in South Asia: Microprocesses of Democratisation in Nepal and its Neighbours 175 231 Google Scholar

OLLIEUZ, A. (2011), ‘The Political History of Indagru VDC’, New Angle Nepal Journal of Social Science and Public Policy, 1, 32-48. ‘The Political History of Indagru VDC’ New Angle Nepal Journal of Social Science and Public Policy 1 32 48 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

PETTIGREW, J. (2013), Maoists at the Hearth: Everyday Life in Nepal's Civil War, Pittsburgh, University of Pennsylvania Press. Maoists at the Hearth: Everyday Life in Nepal's Civil War Google Scholar

PETTIGREW, J. and ADHIKARI, K. (2009), ‘Fear and everyday life in rural Nepal’, Dialectical Anthropology, 33, 403-22. ‘Fear and everyday life in rural Nepal’ Dialectical Anthropology 33 403 22 Google Scholar

RAMIREZ, P. (2000), De la disparition des chefs: Une anthropologie politique népalaise, Paris, CNRS Editions. De la disparition des chefs: Une anthropologie politique népalaise Google Scholar

RANCIÈRE, J. (1999), Dis-agreement: Politics and Philosophy, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press. Dis-agreement: Politics and Philosophy Google Scholar

ROY, I. (2013), ‘Contesting Consensus. Disputing Inequality: Agonistic Subjectivities in Rural Bihar’, South Asia Multidisciplinary Journal. ‘Contesting Consensus. Disputing Inequality: Agonistic Subjectivities in Rural Bihar’ South Asia Multidisciplinary Journal Google Scholar

SCOTT, J. C. (1998), Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, New Haven, Yale University Press. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed Google Scholar

SHAH, A. (2007), ‘"Keeping the state away": democracy, politics and the state in India's Jharkhand’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 13, 129-45. ‘"Keeping the state away": democracy, politics and the state in India's Jharkhand’ Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 13 129 45 Google Scholar

SHARROCK, J. (2013), ‘Stability in Transition: Development Perspectives and Local Politics in Nepal’, European Bulletin of Himalayan Studies, 42, 9-38. ‘Stability in Transition: Development Perspectives and Local Politics in Nepal’ European Bulletin of Himalayan Studies 42 9 38 Google Scholar

SHNEIDERMAN, S. and TURIN, M. (2010), ‘Negotiating Nepal's Two Polities: A View from Dolakha’, in Manandhar, P. and Seddon, D. (eds), In Hope and Fear: Living Through the People's War in Nepal, Delhi, Adroit, 200-13. In Hope and Fear: Living Through the People's War in Nepal 200 13 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

SNELLINGER, A. (forthcoming), ‘The production of possibility through an impossible ideal: Consensus as a political value in Nepal's Constituent Assembly’ Article under review. ‘The production of possibility through an impossible ideal: Consensus as a political value in Nepal's Constituent Assembly’ Article under review Google Scholar

SPENCER, J. (2007), Anthropology, Politics and the State: Democracy and Violence in South Asia, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. Anthropology, Politics and the State: Democracy and Violence in South Asia Google Scholar

STEPPUTAT, F. (2001), ‘Urbanising the Countryside: Armed Conflict, State Formation, and the Politics of Place in Contemporary Guatemala’, in Hansen, T. B. and Stepputat, F. (eds), States of Imagination: Ethographic Explorations of the Postcolonial State, Durham, Duke University Press, 284-312. States of Imagination: Ethographic Explorations of the Postcolonial State 284 312 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

VAN DEN HOVE, S. (2006), ‘Between consensus and compromise: acknowledging the negotiation dimension in participatory approaches’, Land Use Policy, 23, 10-17. ‘Between consensus and compromise: acknowledging the negotiation dimension in participatory approaches’ Land Use Policy 23 10 17 Google Scholar

VANDEKERCKHOVE, N. (2011), ‘The State, the Rebel and the Chief: Public Authority and Land Disputes in Assam, India’, Development and Change, 42, 759-79. ‘The State, the Rebel and the Chief: Public Authority and Land Disputes in Assam, India’ Development and Change 42 759 79 Google Scholar

WYDRA, H. (2000), Continuities in Poland's permanent transition, Basingstoke, Macmillan. Continuities in Poland's permanent transition Google Scholar

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Author details

Byrne, Sarah

Shrestha, Gitta

Byrne, Sarah

Shrestha, Gitta