LeadershipTransferIn Nepali Congress
The miserable defeat of the largest democratic party in Nepal with a rich legacy of the democratic movements has generated a new discourse of leadership transformation not only within the party but also outside. While the demand for the change in the current leadership had been echoed in the past, it has become more profound this time with a bunch of young leaders from the Nepali Congress (NC) calling for change in the structure and function of the party. Interestingly, the young leaders of CPN-UML have also started voicing their opinion for the retirement of the current generation of the top leaders within the party.
Analysing the political journey of NC, since the 1990s the party has been repeatedly at the driver’s seat of the nation. With the adoption of the neo-liberal policies, during the early 90’s, the NC promoted privatisation spurring economic growth for the first few years although there is a vehement criticism of the congress’s development policy for exacerbating inequality in the nation. Thus, the rise of Maoist insurgency in Nepal is equated to the utter failure of the liberal policies to foster inclusive development based on the principle of social justice. Victimised by the intra-party feud and parochial self-interest of a handful of leaders, the party couldn’t deliver much to the public expectations and in some cases further aggravated the situation of the nation in the absence of a strong and committed leadership for national transformation.
While the credit of bringing the Maoists to the mainstream political process undoubtedly goes to late GirijaPrashadKoirala, a towering leader of the party in the past decade, NC still has to carry the accusation of renouncing its ideological stance by agreeing to abolish monarchy in the country and going for a republican system. Amid this scenario, the size of the party shrank deeply in the first election of the Constituent Assembly (CA) in 2008 which was further affected by the increasing voter expectation of the transformed Maoists force to lead the new Nepal. Since then, the election results –whether be it the recently held election of the federal and provincial assemblies or the local elections held last year, have been very unfavorable to the party raising question marks over it’s policies and leadership.
In the past three decades, the style of running the political parties in Nepal has been largely autocratic bypassing important discussions and deliberations on various issues of national importance. This has manifested in the leadership of not only NC but also CPN-UML and the present Maoist Centre. Ranging from issuing the election tickets to appointing the members in the cabinet, a coterie of leaders have made non-transparent and whimsical decisions negating the larger process of selection creating deep frustrations among the loyal party cadres and supporters.
Hence, it is high time an introspection of such a humiliating defeat be made within the party. But the present leadership is adamant to engage in critical reflections and is keen to entrench its influence within the party reluctant to make any changes. At the centre of this criticism is the party president who is also the Prime Minister of the country. In spite of the fact that almost three weeks have passed after the election results, the PM hasn’t made any public statement till date signaling his intent to step down by accepting the failure of the party. Thus, the question of morality will continue to haunt tainted Deuba throughout his political career.
Immediately after the election results, NC leaders like GaganThapa and Bishwoprakash Sharma have publicly stressed on the need of transfering the leadership from the present generation to the new generation with dignity and pride. Easier said than done, the top leadership of NC has not spoken anything on this topic so far despite repeated calls for summoning the special committee meeting. Instead of just changing the faces in the top leadership, the likes of Thapa and Sharma has demanded a major overhaul in the organisational structure and function of the party integrating it with the grassroots for strengthening the party’s base.
Challenges abound facing the Nepali Congress. On the one hand, reforming the existing structure requires sacrifice from the sexagenarian leaders, on the other hand, performing a role of a strong opposition as per the public mandate would require the election of a dynamic and audacious leader as the party’s parliamentary leader. Equally crucial will be for this party to clarify its ideological stance which has created deep confusion among the cadres and supporters,it’s position on pertinent issues of international development and it’s model of development of a federal Nepal.
With the new administrative and governance structure being reshaped under the new constitution, it will be important to inject fresh ideas and leadership into the political parties and the government. The age old working style should undergo major transformation to shoulder the responsibilities of building a prosperous and equitable nation. While the political leaders in their retired age should quit active politics, they should continue to assume the role of an experienced advisor within their area of expertise within the party.