Defining Moment For NC
Dr. Narad Bharadwaj
After a year of electoral miracle that saw the Communist Party of Nepal being catapulted to the glory of two-third majority and the Nepali Congress’ foothold sinking to the abyss, both the parties appear to be in the process of rejuvenating themselves. The CPN is holding its standing committee meeting to address burgeoning intra-party differences and forge cooperation between the party and the government organs in view of the growing public criticism on the poor law and order situation and the slow process of infrastructural development.
The CPN leadership has convened the standing committee meeting with an objective of evolving an effective mechanism to bridge the chasm getting wider between the party and the government in the absence of close communication and collaborative ambience. Discordant voices are occasionally heard at the top leadership level but the differences within the left parties are not deep- rooted and irresolvable.
The standing committee meeting is the first fully functional meeting of the highest executive body of the party after the unification of former CPN –Maoist Centre and CPN -UML. It is, therefore, also taking place as an opportunity for evaluation of the government’s function and the progress achieved in the unification of the two parties from the top level down to the grassroots.
The media outlets are dishing out news and opinion pieces about the growing rift in the left camp on the basis of issues discussed at the ongoing meeting. The fact, however, is that the left forces are in the process of re-unification and reintegration. The party has scored an unprecedented victory in the last election which has afforded a chance for it to form a homogeneous government with a two third majority. In such a situation, deep ideological and widespread organisational differences are unlikely.
In this context, the meeting may be nothing more than a reality check and is likely to serve as an opportunity to oil and grease the party machinery leading to improved government-party coordination and sorting out controversies that have arisen in the functioning of the government. In a broad sense, the ruling left party CPN does not appear crisis-ridden and is taking timely initiative to consolidate the historic gains it has scored through the election by evolving a workable interface between the party and government apparatuses.
Concurrently, the Nepali Congress, the oldest democratic party of Nepal, which is also in the midst of its general convention or Mahasamiti as it is popularly called, appears crisis-ridden. The grand old party which considers itself the harbinger of democratic change in Nepal is in a critical juncture of history.
It has convened its general convention at a time when it is at its lowest mark of organisational decline set in motion by its unprecedented defeat in the federal election held in last December. This party which had remained at the helm of affairs by dint of majority votes in the parliamentary elections since 1990 has found itself beset with multiple problems.
The Nepali Congress has risked organising general convention without clear objective to be achieved from the jamboree of discontented party workers. The young generation leaders and workers of the party want a complete overhaul of the organisational structure by holding the old stalwarts of the party accountable for the general decline of strength and ignominious defeat of the party in the last general election.
They want the end of factionalism in the party. They want the party organisations to be run as per democratic principles. They want the establishment of natural career path for young and talented party leaders so that a balanced combination of the young, middle-aged and the old will be maintained in the leadership of the party at all levels. The aspiration of the youths, who have contributed their creativity and wisdom for making this party as the largest political force of the country for more than six decades have never been given opportunities to bring their capacity into full play for the interest of the people and the party. It has a history of abandoning the talented people to wither away and die at the periphery never allowing them to take the helm of party affairs.
When we look back to its history we find talented leaders like CK Prasai, Pradip Giri, Atmaram Ojha, Durga Subedi, Manamohan Bhattarai, Lokesh Dhakal, Purusotatm Basnet, Rajendra Kharel, Mathbar Singh Basnet, P. L. Singh, Marshal Julum Shakya, Bir Bahadur Karmacharya and Shailaja Acharya scintillating leadership qualities at different period of party’s history. But they were never allowed to come to the fore to steer the party affairs. They were always left behind to play second fiddle while a small group of inefficient and senile people sat heavily on the party’s super structure strengthening patriarchal and dynastic culture only paying mere lip service to democracy all the time.
Because of its neglect in closely binding party mechanism with democratic principles, it has assembled an unprincipled and politically cataleptic crowd of people who have grown up to be not only inept leaders but also very difficult followers.
The present impasse has evolved because of its failure to practice inner democracy. Though it claims to be the largest democratic party of Nepal, its inner democratic life is most stultifying. In its history of more than sixty-five years, it has rarely sent elected deputies to Mahasamiti or the national congress. It is only recently that it has introduced the system of election but the process of election is still highly manipulated. The practice of co-option and nomination is so entrenched in the party, it is hard for the elected representatives to form majority at party conventions when it comes to endorsing new policies or guidelines. This party is being run without principle and ideology. Party schooling is poor and there is no practice of criticism and self-criticism to refurbish party hierarchies and use responsibility with accountability.
The ongoing general convention has been stuck in indecision for reason of the absence of environment for dialogue on contentious issues like accountability for the party’s electoral debacle and the amendment of the party statute which is believed to have prevented the party from being infused with new life and vitality.
The Mahasamiti meeting of the Nepali Congress is still in progress. The seminal question related to it remains whether it will have the will and efficiency to reverse back from the blind alley of patriarchal mindset it has blundered into to catch the high road of unlimited possibilities of transformation and change.
In the past, the Nepali Congress represented advanced ideals of liberal democracy when it was locked in a battle with anachronistic monarchy propped up by the decrepit ideology of divine right. It was then progressive force and was capable to symbolise people’s dream for change.
Now, Nepali Congress is confronting an enemy which is ideologically more argumentative, organisationally more entrenched and democratically more representative than itself. It is, therefore, imperative for it to come out of the chrysalis of ossified values and let its youth vitality break free from the clutches of patriarchal values. If this party fails to make use of the Mahasamiti meeting to infuse its rank with new life blood, it may never get another opportunity knocking at its door again.