April 18, 2019 02:00 AM NPT
At a time Nepali Congress has been criticized for failing to play the role of constructive opposition in the parliament and national politics, it has announced ‘public awareness campaigns’ to be held across the country starting from next week. The program dubbed “Himal Pahad Terai Madhes, Nepali Congress” will run for one month and key leaders of the party will address assemblies in various districts. The party plans to hold such programs from the central to provincial and local levels. The main objective, claims the party, is to “expose government’s wrongdoings” and inform its cadres and the general public about decisions of Mahasamiti Meeting held in December last year and give the message of unity. All this sounds good but Congress should set priority agendas first of all.
As things stand, Congress remains a divided house. There is a visible divide and at times acrimonious exchanges between party President Sher Bahadur Deuba and the faction led by Koiralas. In an interview with Republica on April 8, Congress leader Dr Shekhar Koirala sharply criticized the leadership for not amending the party statute as per the mandate of Mahasamiti Meeting, failing to ensure presence in various parliamentary committees and raise the issues of public concern and letting the party organization in a total mess. As a matter of fact, Congress itself is in internal trouble. In this context, it may be advised to the grand old party to put the house in order first of all. The decision to expose the wrongdoings of the government is right on the mark and this is what the main opposition is expected to do but Congress has not been able to do much about it. The party leadership cried foul against the government on infamous wide-body purchase scam but when reports of possible complicity of Congress leaders came out, Congress changed its tone. This has given the impression that Congress speaks against corruption and misrule only if their leaders are not involved. Multi-billion rupees public land scam is making headlines for weeks. Republica has reported about it extensively exposing the characters involved in it but Congress has not spoken against it.
Congress has been opposing the government moves but it does not provide alternative solutions. For example, it has vocally spoken against the crackdown on violent activities unleashed by the group led by Netra Bikram Chand. But it does not tell us how exactly such violent outfit should be dealt with. Since the electoral debacle in 2017, Congress has not been able to rise as an assertive opposition force. As the government is taking controversial decisions, including on appointment in various constitutional bodies, it needs to rise and stand strongly to check the arbitrary actions of the government. This is the role the opposition party is expected to play in a parliamentary democracy. But Congress must also come up with clear agendas on pressing political and economic issues. Conducted in right way, public awareness program can provide the party a new opportunity to present itself as the credible opposition force. As the Nepal Communist Party heads a strong government with two-thirds majority in the parliament, the main opposition party needs to be equally effective in raising voice in the House, unequivocal in putting views on key issues and dynamic in handling the matter with pro-public approach. Much depends on how the partly leaders will conduct themselves, in terms of both policies and actions.