Lawmaker and Nepali Congress leader Gagan Thapa.
Gagan Thapa, one of the most recognized leaders in the Nepali political scenario, has been widely recognized for his rhetoric and vast knowledge.
Moreover, his proactive engagement in the prevention and control of the coronavirus pandemic has been praiseworthy. His speeches in the parliament and parliamentary committees, as a leader of the main opposition party, are intense.
As Nepali Congress senior leaders are expected to retire after the party’s upcoming General Assembly, he has been vying for the key post in the party. Many wonder what this influential youth leader is planning for this convention. Amrit Raj Kafle talked to him on behalf of Khabarhub.
Here are the excerpts of the interview, Kafle had had with Thapa on issues related to the forthcoming general convention, the preparation of youth and the government efforts for the prevention and control of coronavirus:
It seems Nepali Congress’s most awaited General Convention is not possible in February. Is it due to the coronavirus pandemic or are there other factors as well?
What needs to be understood is that the party’s General Convention is not possible in February or March next year. There was skepticism whether holding the convention was possible in such a situation. However, the date was set then to ensure that initiation for the convention would be taken.
Despite fixing the date for the party’s mega-event, the activities deemed essential for the convention were not done on time owing to various reasons.
Nearly a dozen districts have not yet completed the inclusion at the district level. The target in the schedule was to complete the distribution of the party’s active membership. However, the renewal has not yet been completed.
After the pandemic outbreak, the possibility of holding the General Convention has become slimmer.
With the unfolding developments, it seems like the general convention won’t take place in February 2021. Some NC leaders have openly said the convention may be postponed till next September. What is your take?
What needs to be understood is that if the General Convention is postponed again, the party President has to be responsible for it.
In fact, most of his activities are supportive of postponement. Moreover, the trust in the party President is declining due to his disingenuous moves.
Let me tell you that it’s all up to the party President to resolve all issues. As long as there is a lack of trust, there will be challenges on the way to holding the general convention.
Similarly, the schedule of activities that are mandatory for the convention has not been followed earnestly. Most importantly, even to hold the convention in June, the regional conventions should be held by February and district conventions should be completed by mid-April.
The party statute has the provision for gathering thousands of people in a single place. But will it be possible for around 3 thousand people to come together by February?
This is one question to be pondered as people need to follow the health protocol, including wearing face masks, maintaining social distancing, among others.
Now, is it possible to organize the convention in district headquarters, provinces and Kathmandu in such a situation?
The convention this time has to be decentralized. The district convention should be arranged in such a way that the voters of the respective places should be able to vote in their wards.
The convention should not be held in Kathmandu. It has to be held in all 165 constituencies since 25 people can gather in the constituencies and participate in the convention.
At a time when we should have been discussing how to make it possible, party leaders are wasting their time on silly arguments.
We have been hearing opinions such as going for unanimous leadership, reassigning the previous representatives for the convention, etc, which I think is utter nonsense.
If the General Convention is to be organized by the previous representatives, what’s the sense in talking about a new convention from the old representatives?
What’s the use of organizing elections then? If it’s to be unanimous through them, it’s better to let the incumbent President and the leadership hold the posts.
Is it rational to revive the previous district committees, previous general convention representatives, and the previous regional committees?
What we need to do now is to amend the schedule of the convention, execute all the activities within the amended deadlines, and regain trust.
Another important thing is to decentralize the General Convention (GC) from this time.
You talked about decentralizing the GC. However, the party President is reiterating that the convention should be held on time. To what extent is it likely that the decentralized GC can be held in the present scenario?
The convention is affected by the coronavirus pandemic. We should be informed of what the leadership expects us to do to help overcome the impact.
We have suggested the leadership to organize it in a decentralized manner. Otherwise, the convention is not possible even in September 2021, forget about February next year.
In such a condition, don’t you think that there will be a constitutional crisis in the party?
It requires innovation. We have been telling the Prime Minister that the government can’t make lame excuses for the coronavirus pandemic. It should find a way out. We need to be innovative as well.
Even the party leadership should prove itself by organizing the GC despite all odds. The convention is possible even without nullifying the party statute.
As per the party statute, active members can go and vote in the ward units, for instance, there are 500 active members in my ward. Active members can go and elect 40-50 representatives from the ward. Thus, the mass of 500 can be managed at the ward levels.
It can be done at different hours on the same day, even in different places. Those regional representatives elected from the wards will then elect the GC representatives. In the same pattern, the convention can be organized without accumulating the crowd in a place.
Our traditional pattern is gathering people in a place and casting votes. We can amend the statute and make arrangements in such a way that the representatives can cast vote from wherever they are.
We have the practice of sending election commission’s representatives while selecting the regional representatives; when we elect 165×25 members as GC representatives, there is no need to assemble in Kathmandu in such an adverse situation.
Regarding the policy and programs, that can be discussed and passed virtually as well. It will be more systematic than before.
On the last day of the GC, the representatives can visit the election booth established in each constituency and vote accordingly. Thus the GC can conclude in a much systematic way than before.
There is an active group of youths like you in the party. What is it doing?
So far as the group you talked about is concerned, this is far ahead than the general convention. Our discussion and concern is also the crisis and the convention. We have not talked about the leadership in person, we have been discussing crisis related to the convention. Once the crisis is over, other things can be discussed later.
Will there be a new leadership from the youth group or they will retain their former groups?
We are discussing two alternatives. Nepali Congress seems aloof from people lately. We have received complaints from the grassroots level that NC has failed to act as a responsible and effective opposition party. We want to make NC free from such complaints in the day to come.
We are feeling the pulse of the leadership and trying to figure out whether they are sincere to these issues. Provided we are truly assured that the leadership addressed these things, young leaders should be ready to remain in the ordinary roles.
We don’t have any personal ambition in this regard. We are still prepared to take any risk for the sake of the party and to boost the morale of the party and encourage the people.
You contested as a General Secretary candidate in the previous general convention. Are you competing for the same post or vying for party President?
I already told talked about the discussion that we have been holding among us. My candidature for the forth-coming convention depends on the basis of discussion. Provided someone comes with an agenda to help the party overcome the current crisis, I will compete for the post of General Secretary. Or else, if needed, I am prepared to contest for the post of party President.
We, in fact, are open to all options. I am in regular touch with all my friends. Actually, youths are the decisive force in the party. They should not be ignored.
As a former Health Minister who worked proactively during the tenure, how do you analyze the measures taken by the government for the prevention and control of the coronavirus pandemic?
The government has utterly failed in the COVID-19 response as it did not become proactive. The government failed to calculate the threat or risk of the COVID-19.
The government confined itself to verbal response and did nothing to materialize its speeches. Had it acted proactively, the situation would certainly have been better.
The nature of the government is as it was in the first few months of the pandemic outbreak — indifferent and insensitive towards the risks COVID-19. That’s the biggest fault.
The government failed to assess the risks and the measures to be taken in the short run and long run.
Not only in Nepal, but it should also be evaluated how the world is responding to this global hazard. The world is preparing a vaccine against the coronavirus. However, the government has no plans to work on how to make them available for Nepalis.
The government should have worked on ‘Plan A’, ‘Plan B’ etc., for actions required in the future. It has failed to realize what it has been talking about the health sector and there are other factors affecting people’s lives as well.