Nepali Congress: A Divided House?
The Nepali Congress is a party beset with the internal differences and disputes. This fact came to the fore during the recent Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting of the party. The rival leaders in the CWC accused the party president Sher Bahadur Deuba for the party's heavy defeat in the recently held polls to the House of Representatives and provincial assemblies. Leaders who were regarded as members of the rival groups and pro-Deuba leaders had engaged in a verbal sparring in the meeting that were called to deliberate on the party's performance during the poll. Deuba was clearly under fire during the meet and was forced to agree on calling the meeting of Mahasamiti and amend the party statute in line with the federal set up.
The rival groups even demanded that Deuba should resign from the party chair's post after leading the party to heavy defeat in the historical election. However, Deuba and his allies in the party deflected the demand on the deliberation on the issue pertaining to the poll debacle by citing that they should be focused on the National Assembly election for which the party needed to select the name of leaders who would contest the NA polls.
Deuba had clearly deflected the "pernicious" issue of poll debacle, knowing that he would have hard times in dealing with the topic. The leaders from the rival groups would have certainly attacked him on the poll defeat and would have sought the reasons that led to the party to a humiliating defeat. As such, the issue of "internal sabotage" in the election and poor poll preparations would have been brought to the discussion before the demanding his resignation for the poll defeat. Some CWC members like Prakash Man Singh and Ramchandra Poudel criticised Deuba heavily in the meeting as they roundly blamed him for the party's defeat. The internal disputes in the Congress would not have come to such a level, had the Congress not suffered heavy defeat.
Following the poll debacle, some youth leaders of the Congress started speaking about sending the old leaders, who have already crossed 70 years, into retirement. The youth leaders even raised the issue of factionalism within the party and accused the leaders of older generation for giving rise to factionalism in the party. The accusation of the youth leaders makes it clear that the NC leaders are divided into the two factions- one faction being led by the party president and another by senior leader Ramchandra Poudel. And there is another group of leaders siding with Krishna Prasad Sitaula.
Although the party had suffered a humiliating defeat due mainly to sudden and surprise alliance between the two communist parties - the UML and Maoist-Centre, the differences among the leaders who are divided into different factions has to be partially blamed for the poor poll results. The Congress had never tasted such a humiliating defeat in all democratic general elections held in the country. The deep divide in the party, coupled with communist alliance, was the reason for such a huge defeat.
The differences within the party stopped it from selecting appropriated candidates for both HoR and provincial assembly polls. Many candidates were chosen on the basis on their allegiance to the factional leaders. The leaders who were close to the party leadership were alleged to have pressed the leadership to select the candidates who were their near and dear ones. As such, many the leaders who are popular among the electorate and who could have won the election were left behind.
In the meantime, owing to deepening factionalism, many candidates had to lose because of the alleged sabotage caused by the party rivals within the party at many constituencies. Reports were rife during and after the elections that the several NC candidates lost because of the internal sabotage from their own party members. The party had to take action against many of the leaders who went against the party instruction and those who gave their candidacy against the party nominated candidates or engaged activities to defeat the party nominees.
Many Congressmen were irked with the failure of the party leadership to call a spade a spade which had taken a heavy toll on the party's poll results: the party and its leaders could not criticise India for imposing five-month long blockade. Also, the leadership had failed to get a whiff of the sudden and surprise alliance between the two communist parties, although one of them, the Maoist Centre, was still a coalition partners in the government. The party could have won at least second position in both elections, had the party president and his allies worked diligently for winning the hearts and minds of the voters. Instead, they went on engaging in the activities which would benefit them.
In the aftermath of the huge poll defeat, the NC leadership should work honestly to set the party in right course. As a president of the party, he should to listen to the rival leaders and should try to address their grudges. He must end all kinds of rivalry and factionalist to bolster the party position in national politics.
Deuba should provide appropriate spaces to the leaders like Poudel, Singh, Sitaula and many others so that the rivalry within the party can be laid to rest during his tenure as party president. On the other hand, the leaders of the rival groups must come to a dialogue with the party president and his allies, realising the undeniable fact that the party suffered huge poll debacle partially due to their own infighting. The fate of party has rested on the hands of the experienced party leaders.
Instead of trading charges against each other for the poll loss, the NC leaders should take a lesson from their infighting. They should now be aware to the undeniable fact: a house divided cannot stand on its own. Now, they have the responsibility to stop the party from falling into further abyss, especially at a time when two communist parties have won the majority in the elections and have been touting that the Left Alliance would rule the nation for several years to come.