The Nepali Congress central working committee (NC CWC) has been meeting for the past 12 twelve days. This meeting was important because, among other things, the three-year tenure of the CWC was about to expire (it has now expired, and the term has been extended by one year), the need to discuss the decimation of the Congress in the CA election, identify the causes and take corrective steps to rejuvenate a party that has in its entire history never faced such an electoral debacle. The CPN-UML defeat cost its general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal his top leadership post; but in the Congress no such thing has happened. Immediately after he lost his election, acting president Sushil Koirala announced ‘resignation’, but the letter had not reached the CWC, and the matter was not discussed there. The Nepalis knew through the news media that the Congress’s elected president Girija Prasad Koirala, who himself felt no need to step down, had told his protégé to continue to exercise his delegated authority.
For any democratic party worth the name, a timely general convention to elect a new leadership and chart a new policy course for the party is imperative. But little such desire was evident in the two major factions in the party - the Koirala-led and the Deuba-led - and only a new group of Congressites spoke in favour of setting a date for the convention. And the Congress is not known for electing new office-bearers to coincide with the expiry of the old tenure. The CWC has the authority to extend the one-year term twice. The two factions that have made peace under a 60 to 40 ratio of sharing the party posts may not feel a need for the convention. They do not have laurels to show to their cadres and supporters across the nation - many questions will be raised about the central leaders, including Koirala and Deuba, for their role in bringing the party to this sorry pass. And past wounds and weaknesses would be exposed raw again in the process.
Koirala has ruled the party as a strongman, all the more so after Ganeshman Singh and Krishna Prasad Bhattarai departed from the scene. Now, Koirala, at 86 and ailing, and also barred by the party statute from running for president more than twice, will not become president again, if the convention is held. Nor is it almost certain that an election will make any of his protégés the new party chief. Nor is an early election likely to hand the Congress presidency to Sher Bahadur Deuba by default on a platter, because serious questions will be raised against his leadership and role during all these years. And it is a fair guess that in an election many of the existing CWC members will lose their posts. So, in the personal and group interests of the overwhelming majority of those now occupying the CWC posts, buying as much time as statutorily possible appears to be the better option. But it will come at the cost of the party, which sorely needs a new leadership armed with a fresh mandate to deal successfully with the many new and often huge challenges facing the Congress. Therefore, setting an early convention date now is all-important.