Opportunities, Challenges Before NC
Tribhuvan Chandra Wagle
The Nepali Congress (NC), as the largest party in Parliament and a democratic political institution in the country, has five major agendas to consider at present. Following the 13th General Convention of the party, the NC has elected its central leadership, with a new face in the most influential post of president.
Late party president, the then Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, played a towering role in writing and promulgating the new constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. After this achievement under the leadership of Koirala, the NC has a vital role in implementing the constitution with greater national political consensus, without which the constitution cannot be implemented as per its spirit.
A number of Acts must be adopted or amended in line with the new constitution. Without political consensus, none of these Acts can be promulgated by the parliament. In this connection, the NC should play a leading role to resolve the months-long Terai agitation. Although the first amendment of the constitution was made to address the dissatisfaction in the Terai, the Terai-centric political forces are unable to agree on the major question of delineating the provinces.
Hence, the NC should take the decisive step to open the knot of political dissent. A wider political consensus will open the space for political, social and economic progress in the country. Firstly, it will help to resolve the Terai unrest and then assist in implementing the constitution on the political and legal ground.
Currently, there is some discussion on holding the local election. However, the political issue needs wide political consensus to make it a success. To make the local election a success, the Terai unrest needs to be resolved first. In order to resolve such political issues and take forward the development initiatives in the country, the NC should assume the lead to reach wider political consensus in the country.
But for this, the NC must first be able to erase factions and groupism within the party itself, and as the president of the party, Sher Bahadur Deuba has an important role to play in this regard. He was seen as the master-mind in splitting the NC into the Nepali Congress (Loktantrik) in 2002. So the days ahead are great opportunities for Deuba to remove the charge of being a party splitter.
Deuba has repeatedly said that that he would do away with the 60-40 ratio distribution of posts, popularly known as bhagbanda, between the two factions, i.e. camps belonging to senior party leader Ram Chandra Paudel and his own. This, however, is easier said than done as it requires strong political will as well as visionary leadership in the party.
Deuba is in an exam hall where he is being tested as a student. Evidence shows that he will need to put extra efforts to pass the exam. This is particularly so because Deuba intentionally took the first wrong decision, as the president of the NC, while appointing members of the central committee.
In the history of the NC, late Girija Prasad Koirala and Sushil Koirala had appointed their nearest rival Deuba as a central committee member with special status soon after the party election. But Deuba appointed party senior leader Ram Chandra Paudel to the central committee in a group together with junior members, such as Umakanta Chaudhary. This has not gone down well with Paudel and shows how ignorant Deuba is about treating a senior leader of the party. This is a violation of the practice as well as the norms of the party. Hence, a NC cadre could raise a serious question to Deuba about his decision.
Deuba has the tag of being the man who institutionalised the 60-40 ill-practice of representation in the party as a bargaining chip for his camp. At this moment, serious cadres of the party are watching and urging Deuba to fulfill his promises and stop paying only lip service to them. If Deuba were to ignore his obligations and duties, other senior leaders of the party should caution him. It is also about respecting the diverse interests in the party and uniting them for a better and stronger NC.
It might be recalled that in the first phase of the party election, neither Deuba nor Paudel was able to secure a victory. In the second phase of the election, Deuba won largely due to a technical vote. An equal number of voters had voted for Paudel. Thus, Deuba should respect the aspiration of those voters who cast their vote for Paudel. Otherwise, one can raise a serious question to Deuba as to how he will address and incorporate the spirit and interest of 48 per cent of the voters who went for Paudel while Deuba himself was leading a 40-60 formula for running the party. Deuba should be able to lead and represent the diverse interests within the party with due space and respect for all so that it is a united and ‘democratic party’ in practice without any factions.
The NC faces not only internal but also external challenges. How is the NC considering the formation of a new or future government? How will the NC accelerate the development process in the country? What effective strategy can it adopt to address the challenges and issues faced by millions of earthquake-affected people in the country? These are some of the questions confronting the NC. This calls for unanimous vision and decision within the party to successfully and efficiently address such questions and issues.
In the history of Nepal, the NC has been leading every political movement – 2007 BS, 2046 and 2062/063 BS and was able to promulgate the new constitution (2072) under Sushil Koirala’s leadership. So, once again its cadres have great expectations from the NC’s leadership to safe-land and transform the country. This will determine the political height of the NC and Deuba as well. As the largest and oldest democratic political party, the NC holds great clout in domestic politics.
Some tiny voices, which include those of certain influential members of the NC, are seeking a space for a constitutional monarchy and Hindu state. This is definitely a challenging thought, but as a democratic party, the NC must address the issue for a united and prosperous country. These voices need to be addressed through people’s opinion. In this context, if the people want the issue to be decided through a referendum, then the NC should take the lead and ensure space for the voice of the people.