Be able to lead

As the 11th general convention of the Nepali Congress approaches, complaints have surfaced about some “fraudulent practices” being adopted while granting active membership. Party stalwarts who have voiced concern have blamed party general secretary Sushil Koirala for doing this in order to prevent certain central leaders as well as a number of lower-rung functionaries from participating in the convention. A member needs to pass an electoral hurdle to qualify for participation in the convention. About a dozen central leaders, known for their “anti-Sushil” stance, are said to face elimination at this stage. Allegedly on the “hit list” are people like Chakra Bastola, Dr Ram Sharan Mahat, Bhim Bahadur Tamang and Narahari Acharya. A charge being made is that the panel formed to look into the active membership issue has not published the names of new active members as well as the names of central representatives deputed to conduct organisational polls in the districts.

Whatever the truth of the allegations, Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala would do well to institute an enquiry into the issue to settle this controversy. Ironically, the Congress, a major old political party, often faces charges of lacking in internal democracy. It is leader-centric; whoever is party president virtually becomes a “dictator,” with the party’s central working committee (CWC) doing his bidding. In this, the party’s statute and the way the leadership, specially the central leadership, is constituted, has been faulty. The party president used to handpick almost all central committee members, but of late, about half the members are so selected and the rest are elected by the convention.

Second generation leaders have at times stressed the need for a transfer of power from the old guard to them. This time around too, this is unlikely to happen, as the 82-year-old party president is virtually certain to offer his candidacy, freed as he has been from the two-term limitation by a highly controversial recent CWC decision. No doubt, for his age, Koirala is still active and commands support in the party unmatched by any present Congress leader. Central leader Shailaja Acharya has just announced that she would not stand for party president as Koirala himself is going to contest the election, despite her earlier declarations. The same might happen to other leaders like Ram Chandra Poudel harbouring presidential ambitions. In any democratic party, there should be healthy competition and clash of ideas to uphold the democratic ideals. And second generation leaders should show the courage to challenge Koirala at the polls. Those who would want to land the job just by way of a gift from Koirala are unfit to lead such an important party.