When the government makes mistakes, fails to deliver, or introduces flawed policies, people usually look up to the opposition party in a parliamentary system. People expect the opposition to come up with alternative policies and plans, suggest ways to amend the flawed government policies or support their implementation if policies are good. It is for this reason that opposition party is often called the government-in-waiting in parliamentary system. Nepali Congress has not been able to fulfill these roles. Nepali Congress does not have a big strength—in the 275-member House of Representatives, NC shares only 63 seats, only around one-third of the total seats that Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has. But this number (63) is enough to raise debates in the parliament, pressure the government for reforms and amend the policies and laws if they are flawed. On this front, Nepali Congress has failed terribly. This is why people have doubts about NC as a reliable force to speak up on their behalf. The NC must wake up and reposition itself as the credible opposition. And it does not have to go to the street or obstruct the parliament for that. Congress can play a role of constructive opposition in the parliament.
\NC’s failure to carry out its duty is obvious. For one, top leaders do not attend the parliament session regularly. Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba has one of the lowest attendance records, according to recent media reports. Second, NC is rarely vocal about corruption and government wrongdoings when NC leaders are also implicated in such cases. Take the infamous wide-body purchase scam. Congress vehemently raised the issue in the parliament and demanded action against those involved but when media reports showed that Deuba was at the helm when wide-body purchase process was underway, it fell silent. In the month-long awareness campaign the party launched in May, leaders chose to skip this issue. Yes, they protest the flawed bills—they spoke vehemently against Media Council Bill and Guthi Bill—but they often fail to point out which clauses of the controversial bills are problematic, how they can be amended or whether the bills need to be completely scrapped. Similarly, shadow government formed by NC is almost defunct.
We have maintained in this space several times that business as usual won’t help Congress. It has to first resolve its internal differences. A faction of leaders led by Koiralas has been demanding early general convention but the party president Deuba is bent on deferring it as long as possible. In cases of certain wrongdoings and sharing of the spoils, Congress leadership seems to be colluding with the government. Whenever needed, Congress should be able to present alternative plans and policies in the parliament. Opposition for the sake of opposition does not help. As the country’s oldest democratic party, it should realize that in the parliamentary democracy, when the government fails to deliver, question is also raised about the role of the main opposition party. Congress should and can reinvent itself as the responsible and constructive opposition. But it has to first wake up from deep sleep.