Butwal Congress A milestone in inner party democracy

The recently concluded 8th Congress of CPN (UML) has set a milestone for the promotion and practice of inner party democracy. The entire leadership of a communist party has been elected by the Congress delegates using secret ballots. It was the first time that the whole leadership including the president and general secretary were elected by all the members of the Congress. Earlier, only the central committee used to be elected by the delegates and the members of the central committee used to elect general secretary from among themselves. In CPN (UML)’s history, the 5th Congress adopted People’s Multi-party Democracy’ as a guiding programme of the party under the leadership of the late people’s leader Madan Bhandari in 1993 and played a vital role in democratizing the entire communist movement in Nepal. Likewise, the 8th Congress will be remembered for establishing democratic principles and practices in party’s internal life.

The 8th Congress has taken several steps towards democratizing the decision making processes inside the party. Through this congress, the cadres’ sovereignty has been established inside the party and from now on whatever the majority of the party members want would be the policy of the party. This is the most important aspect of this democratization process. First time in its history, it has introduced a provision under which all the Congress delegates including the central committee members, president and general secretary had to contest the delegates’ election to take part in the Congress. This is a new provision in a communist party’s practice whereas in the past, the entire members of the central committee as well as members of other central organs did not have to contest the election to become Congress delegates. They used to be recognised as the members of the organizing committee. It is argued that this provision will help to maintain party leadership’s connection with the grassroots cadres and also to scrutinize leadership from below.

The Congress has also introduced two consecutive term provisions for the key posts such as president and general secretary. This provision is also applied at the district and constituency levels. It is expected that this provision will end the communist party’s prevailing practice of office bearers never relinquishing their positions. Another important provision that the Congress has introduced is to allow party members to express their dissent. In the past, dissenters were only allowed to express their views within the members of the committee

that they belong to. From this Congress on, if a dissenter wishes to make his/her

different views, he/she is allowed to do so among the entire party rank and file.

But, the dissenters have to follow the majority decision.

Another new step that the Congress has taken was the introduction of 45% reservation for women, Dalits, Madhesis, Muslims, indigenous people, workers, backward regions and classes. This is the first time that any political party has accepted the diversity of Nepali society and taken concrete steps towards promotion of those communities into the party’s decision making levels as per the proportion of their population in the country. Seats are allocated in the central committee based on the national census 2001. This is also in line with the government’s policy in the state organs. This has made party committees more inclusive and it would also enhance those communities’ roles in decision making processes of the party. Likewise, the Congress has also agreed to scrap all the appointee committees (except the zonal coordination committee which will have only coordinating roles) in the party structures and established the principle that all the committees including central, district, constituency and village and municipality levels are to be formed by election similar to the election to central leadership.

Apart from this, the Congress has also passed a resolution to form a National Representative Council consisting of members from the 240 constituencies, district secretaries and members of central committee. This council holds its meeting once a year and assesses the works of the central committee, besides giving directions to the CC for its future programmes. It is aimed to put a check on the central committee which is the supreme decision making body during the period between the two congresses. The Congress has also strengthened the authorities and roles of Central Disciplinary Commission and Central Auditor’s Committee. Both of these commissions are directly accountable to the Congress.

Similarly, with the introduction of the multi-posts at the central level, the division of work among the leadership will be introduced, promoting the concept of collective leadership. It is also expected that with the introduction of those provisions, the party will be run based on rules. If the party is able to implement those decisions, it will certainly enhance the image of CPN (UML) and pressurize other parties to follow suit.

Bhattarai is associated with CPN-UML