The Nepali Congress (Democratic), the party that split from the Nepali Congress more than three years ago, has, in its first general convention, struck the monarchy off its statute, institutionalising its non-committal on the issue of monarchy. The NC-D elected Sher Bahadur Deuba president unopposed — the man, now serving a ‘jail’ sentence handed down by the controversial RCCC, who had spearheaded the split with the parent party to save his premiership — and 18 central working committee members (with an equal number to be appointed by the president later on). Its difference with the Congress, however, is that it has created eight new reserved but elective CWC seats to be spread among women, Dalits, ethnic groups, a resident of Karnali zone. The convention has categorically declared that democracy is more important than monarchy.

The NC-D’s line matches the one held by other constituents of the seven-party alliance. While it is a significant departure for a party often dubbed as the “royal Congress’ now to become statutorily secular as regards the monarchy, it reflects, rather sadly, to what extent the palace has alienated the legitimate political forces. Even within the NC-D, most of the party cadres, particularly the youth, seem to be stridently in favour of a republic, as four of its central leaders learnt to their discomfiture at the convention for speaking in favour of constitutional monarchy. Given the recent Congress and CPN-UML’s decisions on the monarchy, the need to be part of the seven-party alliance, the 12-point agreement with the Maoists and the general mood in the country, it is not surprising that the NC-D too jumped on the bandwagon.

Despite these decisions, the NC-D will find it difficult to live down the stigma that attaches to its name for its widely perceived unsavoury role, for whatever reasons, in making way for the royal takeover of October 4 (2002), that saw its elected leader Deuba being sacked as prime minister for his incapability to hold the promised polls; the second time as the handpicked prime minister under Article 127. The political parties will be tested even more in days to come in the unpredictable political situation, as political showdowns promise to be even more fierce and decisive. In advanced as well as some of the developing democracies, any leader responsible for such disastrous consequences for the country as Deuba had been would hardly have imagined re-election, that too, unopposed. However, the NC-D’s real test as a viable political party depends largely on how it can shake off its past.