NC, Quo Vadis? Time to deepen democracy

(By Narayan Prasad Ghimire)

With its 13th general convention knocking on the door, election fever has gripped the Nepali Congress, the largest political party in the parliament. It is not only the largest in the parliament, but in the country, and has led almost all political movements in Nepal. At a time when the country is undergoing a complex, protracted and multi-dimensional transition, despite bringing the much-awaited constitution through the Constituent Assembly, the general convention of oldest party, calls for a true observation and analysis.
As in the past, the general convention is to whet debate and discussions on party policy, principles, long and short-term agenda, inter-party relations and party organization.
With this mega event fast-approaching (March 3-6), the general and active members, second-rung leaders and the top guns are engaging in publicity campaigns across the country to woo votes in their respective favours. Till date, Vice-President Ram Chandra Poudel and senior leader Sher Bahadur Deuba have said they would contest for the coveted post of the Party President, while incumbent President Sushil Koirala has not spoken any, though his acolytes already emerged louder pointing out the need of re-election of octogenarian Koirala as the party’s President.
At this, Koirala’s silence must be taken meaningfully, as it may be a strategic move too. The silence of President Koirala can be for the observation and analysis of leaders Deuba and Poudel: how they campaign, how much strength they can demonstrate and how many they can lure in their favour may be the key observation of the meaningful silence. Such can be in light of a pressure within the party that he should not yearn for the post anymore but hand it over to the new faces. To this, voices are heard age does not bar one from doing politics. If Koirala repeats the post, what’s Deuba and Poudel’s fate in the party? Can’t the party leadership go out from the family coterie? Or does the politics of Koirala clan subside once Deuba or Poudel become President? These are the issues dogging huge number of cadres and leaders in the NC.
Vice-President Poudel, who untiringly fought for prime minister’s post for over 17 times, met the Sisyphus-ian fate, while Deuba has already been the Prime Minister thrice.
Groupism in the party during the months leading to election is normal, but what happens if it is deep rooted in the party that jeopardizes the party organization itself? Amid this background, it is relevant for the party to come up with a view.
Is NC really brewing factionalism that hinders deepening of the democracy in the country and also derailing its own organization? “Yes, the gross nepotism and favouratism gripped the party. Those ardent followers of BP’s thoughts are enfeebled in the party. Using and discarding leaders was rife after the 12th general convention. It is all done as factionalism,” said former active leader Laxman Ghimire.
Similarly, asked whether the second generation in the party was ignored or not given opportunity to leadership development, Mr Ghimire said that first, the youth leaders themselves are not united. “Although the age does not bar/matter for party leadership, the bitter fact of grabbing senior posts by handful leaders till death must be reviewed,” he said, adding that thoughts and activism can make leadership oomph despite growing age.
He further argues that lack of unity among youth leaders obviously jeopardizes party organization, and enfeebles its presence in the national politics. Leader Ghimire also lamented that the 12th general convention said to be the convention of unity failed to be so. The reason behind this was organizational management failure of the leadership.
However, senior journalist Dev Prakash Tripathi, argues that the 12th general convention was just a technical unity, so the coming 13th general convention will be the convention of emotional unity, thereby ending 60-40 faction in the party.
In a question what NC must do now to remain an effective democratic party, Mr Ghimire suggests it percolated democracy to ward, village, municipal, district level from the centre; grab new agenda in line with changed national political dimension. Similarly, Mr Tripathi suggests the NC rise above socialism and stand strong for its nation’s tradition, religion, culture and liberal economy. Thoughts, vision and direction must be grabbed by the youth leaders, he added.
In this regard, it was quite shameful to have the protests and sit-in of various departments under the party at the party headquarters after the 12th general convention, which had elected Sushil Koirala, as the party President. It was clear indication how the factionalism brewed rather than dismantled by the convention or the new leadership. Importantly, such dissent- the disagreement of some faction in the party over distribution of active membership has emerged vocal in the time leading to the 13th general convention. The Kaski vendetta was quite harrowing that blemished this party much.
The country has brought the new constitution under the leadership of the Nepali Congress. But, it seems the April 25 earthquake prodded parties for constitution, and constitution brought blockade, Madhes agitation and scourge of nationwide suffering. Now, what’s the relevance of the constitution? To this, NC at present seems almost indifferent in the name of general convention. With the undeclared blockade, Nepal’s relation with India has recorded a new low. The government seems feeble to cope with the hardship caused by Madhes agitation coupled with unannounced blockade and strained relations with neighbour. These are also pressing national issues the big party needs to heed.
To conclude it is not cockamamie at all to urge NC to dismantle factionalism and discourage hacks in the party, review party policy and principles in line with changed national politics to deepen democracy and immediately come together to cope with the national crisis.