Leadership Challenges Of NC
Nepali Congress ( NC) is yet to recover fully from the shock of humiliating defeat it had faced in the last elections held almost two years ago in accordance with new federal constitution. The party has been thrown into a kind of delirium due to its diminished hold in the levers of local, State and federal government. It has been struggling for fresh lease of life through different strategies to rejuvenate itself. The NC leadership is engaged in working out strategy to take on the communist government that is enjoying an absolute hold on the government across all levels.
Moreover, Nepali Congress is riddled with factionalism, as accused by its functionaries time and again, with the incumbent party President Sher Bahadur Deuba and Ramchandra Poudel in particular vying for supremacy in the party leadership. The NC general convention needs to be held next year according to the party statute but it has been alleged that president Deuba is trying to evade this on several pretensions. There has been a full blown critical dissidence in the party as the incumbent leadership has been blamed for overall weakening of the party organisation.
But the party president and his cohorts have defended that it was not the fault of the single leader like Deuba to weaken and sap the energy of the party. Though the party's dip in popularity might have been contributed by several factors, the immediate cause for the poor show in the last polls is definitely by reason of the combined strength of the Left Alliance that holds extensively entrenched organisational base armed with committed party cadres throughout the country. In fact, the erstwhile CPN(UML) alone was predicted to claim the largest number of seats in the federal and State parliament.
When CPN(UML) combined with the Maoist unity centre pledging to go for party integration and unification, cadres closed their ranks to campaign in favour of the Left alliance candidates. Given the shabby organisational shape of Nepali Congress with its emphasis on the mass base, the poor electoral outcome in the last election was obvious and natural. Though the mass based parties like Nepali Congress have their own advantages due to their wider, cross-sectional and cross-territorial appeal, the cadre-based communist parties enjoy the added leverage.
They can use and mobilise their functionaries aggressively to pursue the single agenda to win the elections. The mass appeal is always based on persuasive values and principles whereas the cadres are tied together by doctrines, commitment and discipline. In societies like ours the latter kind of party organisation has an advantage over the former. Nepali Congress, therefore, needs to shore up its organisational base and strength, intensify campaign for new political recruitment and bolster the esteem and confidence of the party workers and sympathisers to meet the Left Alliance in political competition. That will follow as by elections for sub-national and national level seats is scheduled by November this year NC has to show that it can recoup and present competitive fight in the electoral competition.
Nepali Congress should opt scouting for new firebrand leadership that can fire off the zeal of party workers and ordinary people. Some youth leaders of the party have called for the change of leadership with a view to facelift the organisation for making it more vigorous, competitive and combative in the days to come. In fact, the last thirteenth general convention of Nepali Congress had witnessed the assertive presence of the new generation of leadership. Some youth leaders had challenged the conventional party leadership in the last party convention by forming the separate panel.
Though this group was not in a position to clinch the major party posts, it had caused a significant impact on the final tally of the party elections. In fact, the Nepali Congress youth leadership should prepare and assert oneself to take over the mantle of responsibility. This is an imperative of the time in view of the fact that the old generational leadership has been tested time and again. It seems that this old fashioned type leadership is least prepared to take on and meet the challenges of the contemporary context in the country.
Politically, the party has to compete in political arena with cadre based communist parties that have come together though the popularity of the left government is taking downward slide. There are also social and political challenges presented by the emerging regional and communal political forces in the country. Nepali Congress needs to entrench its organisational base in all the States of the country to retain and maintain its size, shape and stature as the national party for which dynamic new generation leadership should come forward and guide the organisation. Since the base and structure of the party has dwindled especially due to its apathy and inaction to mobilise the party functionaries around the policies and principles the focus should therefore lay on how to connect the party to the grassroots.
Late BP Koirala had remarked way back in the late sixties that the Nepali Congress has run the risk of being reduced to party with grass but without roots deep down in the ground. This is very much relevant today as the weakened party has to survive the challenges presented by different social and political forces in the country.
(Rijal, PhD, contributes regularly to TRN and writes on contemporary political, economic and governance issues. He can be reached at [email protected])