Nepali Congress A Lost Legacy
Dr. Narad Bharadwaj
As the political parties continue to lock their horns on the Constitution Amendment Bill waiting in the parliament to enter the process of discussion, people have started to question the public accountability and maturity of the ruling parties for failing to explore a judicious course of action to defuse the crisis.
The Nepali Congress and its leaders have incurred the largest share of blame for their inability to seize initiative to break the current political imbroglio for finding a smooth way out of the stalemate.
The clumsy way with which the ruling coalition carried itself about in facing the situation generated by its decision to register the Constituent Amendment Bill has greatly eroded the public standing of its constituent parties.
The ruling coalition has come under fire for failing to take steps to stop the ever spiraling animosity among the ruling and the opposition parties that threaten to take the country farther away from the path of reconciliation which is indispensable for accomplishing the implementation of the constitution.
The lack of maturity of the leaders of the ruling coalition parties became transpired when they tried to bulldoze their way to register the amendment bill in the parliament. As expected, this move of the government triggered protests in Province 5 against the proposed separation of hill districts from that province.
The decision of the ruling coalition parties to propose restructuring of Province 5 was clearly against the spirit with which the three major parties had forged consensus to promulgate the constitution. The shift of ideological position of the ruling parties was astonishing. During the proclamation of the constitution they had opposed the idea of forming provinces entirely consisting of Terai region. This had led to the Madhesi forces to boycott the second Constituent Assembly and burn down the copies of the constitution.
This was the time when the major parties needed to form a common front for the implementation of the constitution against the subversive plans of the anti-constitutional forces which were conspiring to prevent the constitution from being implemented.
In such a situation the Nepali Congress chose to stay away from the government saying that it was not proper for two largest parties in the parliament to share power. It said that either the CPN-UML or the Nepali Congress should be in the opposition. This decision of this party weakened the implementation process of the constitution and gave the CPN-Maoist Centre an opportunity to up its ante in the bargaining for power sharing.
The Nepali Congress, stood on the sideline leaving the CPN-UML to fend for itself and to face the impact of the destructive Madhes movement coupled with the inhuman and unjustified blockade imposed by India on the supply of basic consumer goods to the Nepali people.
The Nepali Congress may have calculated that if it stayed in the government, it had to take steps to counter the impacts of the blockade which would put its traditional relation with India at jeopardy.
It decided to stay away from the boiling cauldron so that it would be at the standby to take over the command when the CPN-UML would exhaust itself in the war of nerves against the southern neighbour and its proxies- the Madhes-based political parties.
Unexpectedly however, KP Oli government which came to power after the exit of Shushil Koirala because of his defeat in the election for the post of prime minister, took the bull by the horn and succeeded to rally the entire population of the country to resist the inhuman Indian blockade and defuse the agitation of the Madhes-based forces.
The Nepali Congress went into hibernation until the problems created by the Madhes agitation and Indian blockade were resolved. But when the country started to show signs of recovery after India was forced to lift the blockade in the face of international derision and an unprecedented stoicism of the Nepalese people, it came out of the torpor. It broke all the ethical norms and started to incite the CPN-Maoist Centre to break the coalition with the CPN-UML and succeeded to form an anti-UML coalition even at the cost of yielding prime ministerial position to the CPM (MC).
After pulling through the crisis brought about by the Indian blockade and the Madhes agitation, the general masses were expecting that the country would embark on the road of self-reliance and development.
The people wanted the UML-led government to continue so that the incumbent government would follow up the agreements reached with China on building cross-Himalayan connectivity making progress towards overcoming the state of perennial dependence with the southern neighbour and achieving self-reliance.
As a party with the longest tradition of democratic practice and the largest number of seats in the parliament, it would stand to reason if the Nepali Congress had boldly come forward to lead the implementation process of the constitution in collaboration with CPN-UML. In fact, it lost its support base and moral authority to lead the nation by dithering and sympathising with the forces which had driven the country to a state of total disarray by going to the extent of collusion with external forces.
The Nepal Congress’s decision to refuse to form a coalition government with CPN-UML and eventually falling for an alliance with CPN-Maoist Centre lowered its image and public stature. From the largest democratic party of the country, it has been relegated to the position of playing the second fiddle in the chessboard of national politics.
The decision of the Nepali Congress and the CPN-MC to insist on the amendment of the constitution on issue of the restructuring of provincial borders has plummeted the popularity of these parties. Their readiness to create two Madhes provinces separating hill districts from proposed Madhes provinces has alienated them from the people and has proved that these parties lack will and determination to lead the people and the nation in asserting independence, safeguarding sovereignty and pursuing a foreign policy based on the Principle of Panchasheel.
No wonder, their decision to register the Constitution Amendment Bill in the parliament has met with a stiff resistance from the people of Province 5 and the opposition parties in the parliament. The CPN-UML is leading the resistance and it is enjoying support from an overwhelming majority of the people. There is strong likelihood that if the coalition fails to see the writing on the wall and goes ahead with presenting the amendment proposal for discussion and voting in the parliament, it is sure to lead the country to further chaos and instability.
Today, the Nepali Congress is no longer a leading spirit of the nation. It has reduced itself to a subsidiary force of Nepalese politics because of its duality and ambivalence. Despite the brave front it tries to put up, the Nepalese electorate has now clearly understood that the Nepali Congress has not succeeded to break itself off the shackles of subservient mentality.
Because of its policy of ambivalence, even its cadres and leaders are going openly against it. The rebellious voices that are echoing from among its rank against the proposed separation of hill districts of Province 5 has exposed skeletons in its cupboard.
Nepali Congress leadership has missed a great opportunity to emerge as a leading voice of the nation in deciding the course of political transition. It has been moving along the course which is likely to lead the country into a blind alley. It is, therefore, time for the leaders of the party to reawaken themselves to become worthy successors for carrying on the glowing legacies handed down to them by illustrious leaders like B.P. Koirala and Ganesh Man Singh.