Isn’t it time for Nepali Congress to reinvent itself?

Ishwar Dev Khanal

September 1, 2020

7 MIN READ

Isn’t it time for Nepali Congress to reinvent itself?
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KATHMANDU: A powerhouse in Nepal’s democratic struggle, Nepali Congress (NC) currently faces an existential crisis after the unprecedented electoral defeat in 2017.

Perhaps, it wouldn’t be belligerent to say that NC party, formerly the center of Nepal’s politics, is in turmoil.

Reason: If the party’s central committee member Dr Shekhar Koirala’s remarks are to be considered, it is a lack of internal democracy, nepotism, and leadership’s unilateral moves.

“Indeed, NC lacks internal democracy,” says Dr Koirala, who is eyeing for the party’s central president in the upcoming 14th general convention by wooing NC influential youth leader Gagan Thapa into his camp as a General Secretary candidate.

Party President Sher Bahadur Deuba, alleged of making unilateral moves and practicing factionalism, is likely to face a stringent confrontation from Dr Koirala, who has already garnered support from a section of the party.

A spate of grievances coming from party influential leaders like Dr Koirala, senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel, youth leader Gagan Thapa, among others is evidence that the party, in fact, lacks internal democracy.

NC has also been criticized for depletion and having a skeletal representation in the parliament as weak opposition in a democratic country will have serious implications as the Oli-led government seems confident about holding on to the power irrespective of all wrongs.

Allegations are that nepotism rules the NC and President Deuba. “Look at the way he (Deuba) has nominated members in various party departments,” says Koirala criticizing party president for adopting a monopolistic approach while running the party in a recent interview with Khabarhub.

Once a political behemoth, NC failed to stop KP Oli and his party winning a landslide victory in the 2017 general elections as “rigid” Deuba even went for “electoral coalition” with the opponents to fulfill his egoistic motive because of which the party, that claimed strong footholds in several constituencies, suffered humiliating defeats.

What should also be taken into consideration is the comment that comes from Prime Minister Oli, who argues that NC is on its deathbed. He has at times taken a jibe at the opposition party leadership saying NC is giving lessons of nationalism to him.

Several political experts, and Nepal Communist Party lawmakers, too, criticize NC of breathing its last.

Consider what political analyst Puranjan Acharya says: “Nepal political parties are better in terms of internal democracy in comparison to other political parties in South Asia. However, NC is currently faltering in Deuba’s leadership as there have been instances of violating the party statute at times.”

He referred to Deuba’s recent “unilateral” appointments in various party departments indicating the lack of internal democracy. Acharya, however, has a question: “What is the measuring rod for internal democracy?”

Observers, including some NC insiders, too, complain that nepotism has overshadowed the party’s nationalism.

NC has also been criticized for depletion and having a skeletal representation in the parliament as weak opposition in a democratic country will have serious implications as the Oli-led government seems confident about holding on to the power irrespective of all wrongs.

Political pundits say NC lacks stamina or comprehensive strategy to take in the NCP’s power duo to Prime Minister KP Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal.

“If NC wishes to survive, it needs to reinvent itself from the grassroots,” claims Arun Subedi, political analyst, adding that Nepali Congress now needs to promote internal democracy and political vitality.

Here, the worst part is that people are displeased with PM Oli, unhappy with the economy, unhappy with the way the government is combating the COVID-19 pandemic, and unhappy with the way the government has indulged in corruption.

“However, people do not see NC as a viable alternative,” added Subedi.

“People now do not want to vote for the same old traditional NC party, they want youths to step in to break the trend of nepotism,” he says adding, “If this does not happen, the NC party which boasts of a celebrated history with a crucial role in fighting against the Ranas, monarchs, and autocracy, faces the prospect of extinction.”

Observers say Nepal needs a strong opposition with a distinct alternative political vision to the NCP.

Freeing the party apparatus from the current power structure of nepotism and unilateralism is the need of the hour, analysts say.

Subedi adds it is high time that the NC party trod on the path of BP Koirala by completely deserting the Communist ideology, which it has been following for the last seven years. “Or else it will be confined within the four walls,” he warns.

NC influential leader Gagan Thapa, too, is worried about the performance of the current leadership of the party. “The party’s general convention is the yardstick to measure the internal democracy,” he says indicating at the leadership’s reluctance to hold the same.

“If the party fails to exhibit internal democracy, the party’s future will be at stake,” he warns.

Freeing the party apparatus from the current power structure of nepotism and unilateralism is the need of the hour, analysts say.

Consider what Thapa has to say, “Vital is to re-evaluate what the party stands for as NC badly needs a positive and forward-looking leadership and platform.”

Party senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel, too, is disgruntled with Deuba and his “unilateral” moves, which he has been reiterating that such steps will push the party to the brink of extinction.

If Subedi’s views are anything to go by, NC needs to stop following the communist way of thinking and act more like a democratic party.

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