A new chance
The CPN-UML is to prepare for its eighth general convention to be held in about six months, and appointed Jhalanath Khanal, a former general secretary, to lead the party till the convention elects a new leadership team. This convention is taking place after full term, and its timing will provide the CPN-UML with the opportunity of adopting new policy and programme and electing a new leadership infused with dynamism and vision to reorient the party to meet the challenges of the vastly changed times. The seventh convention had fully authorised the central committee to take decisions on the issues of constituent assembly and republic, as then the convention had hesitated to take a clear stand. The outcome of the general convention will largely decide whether the CPN-UML is likely to come back with its past glory.
Its general secretary for fifteen years, Madhav Kumar Nepal, had recently resigned over his and his party’s poll defeats. He has been appreciated for taking moral responsibility, but the entire central leadership should be held accountable, all the more so those leaders whose stands have considerably shaped the party’s direction since the seventh convention, particularly in recent times, including its opposition to seeking an electoral alliance of Left forces in the Constituent Assembly election. The UML’s considerable loss of touch with the masses has been caused by a number of factors of its own making. Its latest humiliation could, however, have been averted, as it has now transpired, by forging an electoral alliance with the Maoists who had been pressing for it.
The past is past. But now is the time for the party to focus on the present and to look forward to the future. As for the future, it has an uphill task of re-inventing itself — a major restructuring of its leadership, its organisation, its policy and programme, and of its overall orientation is required. The UML’s challenges are even more arduous than the challenges facing the Nepali Congress, because it has to compete with another communist party that has hogged the credit as the party that has been instrumental for constituent assembly, republicanism, federalism, State restructuring, including a radical programme for the uplift of the marginalised sections of society. The CPN-UML’s job is Herculean but not impossible provided it finds a capable leadership, sound policy and right action. Placing the blame at the door of others for its electoral rejection will not rescue the party from sliding further. Only sincere self-appraisal and a willingness and determination to mend itself will hold out any hope. But the party’s current reluctance to accept its defeat gracefully and to honour the existing understandings and agreements regarding the formation of a new government of consensus based on the election outcome would hardly mark a right start, as it would show the party to have been unable to rise above its frustration at the election result. As the CA and the new government are set to make epoch-making decisions, the UML’s role there would also considerably help mould its future public standing, including among the Left-inclined voters.