Nepali Congress, Nepal’s oldest democratic party, looks like a confused and divided house. While there have been calls from some leaders for overhaul of party institutions, top leaders including party President Sher Bahadur Deuba seem reluctant to make changes within the organization to transfer leadership. On Tuesday, leaders including Gagan Thapa, Chandra Bhandari, Dhanraj Gurung, Gururaj Ghimire, Ram Krishna Yadav, Jeevan Pariyar and Pradeep Paudel presented the 50-page proposal at the central working committee meeting demanding early general convention by amending the statute through a Mahasamiti meeting. They called for leadership handover as well. Youth leaders have long argued that Deuba should take the responsibility for election defeat. They have also claimed that the party will be able to regain its political strength and win majority votes in the next election if the structure, policies and strategies of the party are revamped and leadership is changed. They have urged leadership not to wait for ‘failure’ of communist alliance to start drastic changes. But top leaders do not seem to have taken these concerns seriously.
The cause of election defeat has remained the main point of discussion in the party ever since the party suffered the worst defeat in its electoral history in local, provincial and federal parliament elections last year. Many leaders have cited, among other things, failure in not adopting scientific criteria while nominating candidates for election as a major cause of defeat. They have a point. For several reports after the poll debacle have shown that nomination process was rather opaque and candidates were chosen based more on their association with top leadership than merits and contribution they made to the party. The internal rift has gone so deep and wide that senior leader Kul Bahadur Gurung withdrew his support to Sher Bahadur Deuba. This incident should not be taken lightly for Gurung himself had proposed Deuba as a party president in the 13th General Convention in 2016. Gurung has expressed serious dissatisfaction with Deuba’s performance. It would not be wise for Deuba to stick to power without reviving confidence of cadres. It would do well for Deuba to heed the call of youth leaders and act accordingly.
Needless to say, Nepali Congress is in the weak position in current power equation. This is why it needs to make necessary changes within the party organizations and reassert itself. Since election defeat, Congress has been resorting to rhetoric of ‘authoritarianism of communist parties’ to defend its position instead of coming up with clear policies and programs to check possible wrongdoings of K P Sharma Oli’s government. Such rhetoric has failed to impress the people. Congress should be able enough to work as a strong watchdog. It may have lost significant number of seats to communist alliance but it still has a significant role to play in the parliament to make the government accountable and deliver on good governance, development and prosperity agendas. When the opposition fails to become vocal and play a constructive role in the parliament there will be real possibility of the government displaying authoritarian tendencies. Congress should come up with clear roadmap on making the government accountable. This is what is expected of the main opposition party everywhere. This is what people expect of Nepali Congress in Nepal at the moment.