KATHMANDU: Needless to say, parliamentarian Gagan Thapa, a youth leader and central working committee member of the Nepali Congress (NC), has currently become the voice of the party, especially in the parliament. One of the most popular politicians in the country, Thapa has been widely recognized for his intense rhetoric and vast knowledge.
Due to his aptitude and the candid expression that he makes in and out of the parliament, lawmaker Thapa’s craze has increasingly flared up within the party because of which his role in the upcoming general convention has been seen with inquisitiveness.
In a conversation with Khabarhub, Thapa talked on a wide range of issues, including politics, COVID-19, government’s performance, among others. Excerpts:
It’s already four years since the Nepali Congress had its general convention. How do you evaluate the party’s first 4 years?
In fact, the last four years turned out to be a blend of hot and cold in the party. When the last general convention took place, the then Prime Minister Sushil Koirala was occupied with his responsibilities as the constitution was just promulgated and the economic blockade was about to end.
The party’s national responsibility as a leading democratic party had to play a pivotal role in the successful enforcement of the newly-promulgated constitution. We had to smoothen the nation’s bilateral relationship with neighbors and friendly nations.
Meanwhile, under the Sher Bahadur Deuba’s premiership, the party fulfilled all the formal obligations it had to fulfill for the nation.
Taken it in view, under Deuba’s premiership, the NC-led government accomplished the task of conducting elections, both at local levels and at the national level. Mainstreaming the Madhesh-based party was not possible without the NC-led government.
For a democratic party like ours, taking part in election was very important. Our party underwent the poorest-ever performance in the last election, or let’s say, the election results showed us at the weakest-ever position in our history. Our journey rearward started with our coalition with the Maoist in Chitwan’s local election.
That was, I would say, proved to be fatal to the party. The silent supporters, who as gentlemen had been loyal to NC ideals and were the key assets as well, were dismayed at our decisions.
Looking back at the road traveled then, we feel there are some other serious errors. We could not retain our organizational structure. There are various factors playing for our poor show in the election, but one of the key factors was our inability to maintain organizational intactness.
Despite the poor representation in the parliament, we have now shown that NC accomplishes any major responsibility the people and the time assigned to it. At the cost of defeat in the last election, we never took ourselves away from our accountability and our responsibility.
We have still time to realize the weaknesses and recuperate for the next term. We are currently analyzing our strengths and weaknesses. The public has great support and expectation from the Nepali Congress.
In two years, we got an opportunity to show people what we could do and what others have done. By the next two and a half years, we will have regained our strength and glory back.
There are instances of NC central members boycotting the party’s central working committee meetings. What is your observation?
I have to go back to Sushil Koirala’s tenure when Sher Bahadur raised several issues criticizing the party leadership for failing to lead the party as per the party statute. Deuba criticized Koirala for failing to act rationally and justifiably. Moreover, he also came down heavily on the party leadership for favoring a small interest group, among others.
Later, Deuba pledged to change all the negativity. However, after the convention, he overlooked all his promises and agendas. He, too, was circled by a coterie and failed to deliver as promised. Now, when the central leadership fails to abstain from petty selfish groups; it is obvious that there is disgruntlement within the sister organizations, local, provincial or central levels.
To recall, we did not hesitate to applaud the feats like holding the convention of various sister organizations. But sadly, the organizations which held the conventions have also failed to feel energized. If you talk about our priority in the party, it obviously goes to holding the general convention as scheduled.
How optimistic are you about the leadership’s commitment to holding general convention within February 2021?
When the colleagues in the party turn skeptic about their fellow leaders, doubts get transferred to the sister organizations and the committees below. I should have been doubt-free on this issue. From our side, we want to ensure a conducive environment for the convention.
As part of preparatory works, there are so many things waiting to be addressed instantly; but the leadership, which should have played relaxant to these issues is just adding complications. Obviously, doubts arise when the leadership expected to ease the environment turns catalyst in worsening it.
The leadership seems to have prepared for the general convention. Krishna Sitaula, the leader you’re working very closely with, is vying for the President. What’s your position?
Every party has dynamics of various types. In this sense, I don’t take it unusual the people are making various speculations. At present, the main concern of the leaders like Krishna Sitaula and me is to ensure that the convention is held at the designated time.
Provided the work schedule is disrupted like this for about two weeks, we won’t be able to do anything assigned to be done within the third week of March. The activities listed in the timetable are in chain order. The deferral of one affects the next automatically.
To aggravate the situation, here is the problem of coronavirus. We have postponed all meetings, and seminars of the party now. We have been demanding the government to act live in the spread of this epidemic. We have been asking the government to be more serious, rational and responsive in the issue.
What will be your role in the forthcoming convention? What will be the fate of the third pole in the party?
In the general convention held 4 years back, I and Krishna Sitaula vied for the post of the general secretary and the president respectively. We had a similar stance on major issues. Hence, we competed in the election from a panel.
We are still working together. We aim to bring the mega event of the party on the right track. Moving this way, we may come across the agenda related to the selection of the new leadership.
Things depend on how each presents prior to and during the conventions. Making a conducive atmosphere for it is our prime concern. The party President has taken the responsibility, so, naturally, we seem to pounce on the President. If we look at the way he is working, we find that most of the activities are not as per the party statute. His attitude and performance are likely to aggravate the environment for the party convention.
Keeping all these things in mind, I, as the former candidate of General Secretary, will be vying for the same. Provided things go as I expect, I will be vying for the post of General Secretary.
Won’t you claim for the NC President?
No, I offered my candidacy for the post of General Secretary in the previous convention. The party colleagues did not trust the vote. I want to contend for it again. I can act as per the time demands in the future, however, my natural claim is for the post of General Secretary.
What’s the status of the third pole in NC, now? Are you working on forming another team?
Those of us who were together before are together now as well. We are people with a positive attitude. Both then and now, our prime concern is strengthening the party. We are committed to that.
You said you’re the obvious candidate for the post of General Secretary. However, those who are in leadership seem to vie for the post as well. How do you take it?
We have reached the stage of a general convention. I had presented my candidacy for the post citing the old leadership can’t address the party and country needs of this time and future as well.
I stick to the view. My position in the issue is the same.
I feel that the top-level leadership including the incumbent President should play guardians and let the new generation handle the party ahead. I respect their freedom, however.
You floated a proposal of public importance in the parliament to deal with the coronavirus. Lawmakers have also held discussions. How do you analyze the government’s preparations?
Indeed, the country is facing a sort of state of emergency. It is high time that we all stood together at this juncture of time, especially when the country faces such a crisis rather than protesting.
The intention to float the proposal in the parliament was to support the government in whatever way we can. Deputy Prime Minister Ishwor Pokhrel called an all-party meeting recently in repose to my proposal. The steps taken by the government are laudable, yet not sufficient.
Meanwhile, the government has taken our suggestions positively. We suggested that the government made a national work-plan and move ahead accordingly.
All those arriving in Nepal from abroad should be quarantined. Even though no coronavirus cases have been detected in Nepal so far, we should be prepared to face any kind of situation in the future.
This is what I have been emphasizing. I am certainly hopeful that the government would do the needful to tackle the epidemic without any delay.
There have been some reports saying that the government will not be able to quarantine all foreigners visiting Nepal. What is reality?
Take, for instance, British Health Minister Nadine Dorries, who has tested positive for the coronavirus, is also undergoing self-quarantine.
In our context, too, such an arrangement has been made to ensure that all those coming to Nepal from South Korea were kept under quarantine camp accordingly.
A protocol has also been made to this effect. But there has to be a monitoring mechanism to ensure that concerned persons are abiding by it.
It has been said that people visiting Nepal need to produce medical certificates and would be kept in isolation for 14 days. But the question is whether it is put in practice.
How do you assess the two years’ performance of the government?
People, in fact, had lots of expectations from the incumbent two-thirds majority government. Did we hear ruling party heavyweights Pushpa Kamal or Madhav Kumar Nepal uttering a single word of criticism against the K P Oli government in the last two years? Perhaps not.
Now, the internal party wrangling has started to pop up. Given this political situation, it can be said that Prime Minister Oli is enjoying a conducive atmosphere with the single-handed leadership in both the government as well as in the party.
But the government has utterly failed to deliver as per the aspirations of the people notwithstanding the favorable environment.
To be more precise, the government is at a snail’s pace in terms of development works. What I want to reiterate is that NCP’s internal dispute should not hamper the government’s actions or decisions.
Prime Minister Oli still needs a rest of at least six months. We want him to see him in the parliament and answer our questions regularly.
Now the question arises, why is PM Oli risking his health? People expect changes in the country. If not, the remaining period of three years, too, would go astray.
The ruling NCP is sharply divided over the issue of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and nomination to the National Assembly. What is your observation?
The internal party dispute of the NCP should not affect the leaders’ responsibilities towards the state. It’s up to them to nominate an individual to the National Assembly. The Constitution should not be made a shoddy document that it would be to sort out a party’s internal dispute. The government’s decisions should not bear the brunt of the internal disputes of the party.