The question of how its central leadership should be chosen presents the biggest challenge to the members of the Nepali Congress as it approaches its 11th general convention. Several ideas are being floated about the ways of filling the positions of the central working committee (CWC), the party’s apex executive body. In a party whose leaders sometimes call it the ‘only democratic’ one in the country, it is paradoxical that half of its CWC members, including all central officer-bearers, are handpicked by the elected president, and the remaining half of the CWC members are elected by the convention.
As a result, the CWC has often acted as the party president’s rubber stamp. Half a dozen CWC members, including Ram Chandra Paudel, Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat and Arjun Narsingh KC, on Saturday proposed to president Girija Prasad Koirala that the concept of ‘collective leadership’ should be adopted. This scheme envisages elections for the CWC posts, including that of vice preseident, which, according to them, would then end any confusion about who would succeed the president in any eventuality. Koirala is yet to make public his views, but according to indications from some of his influential loyalists, he does not favour it on the ground that it would ‘promote factionalism from the centre to the grassroots’. Meanwhile, more than a dozen Congress leaders, including the above-mentioned three and Narahari Acharya, have started discussing the possibility of fielding a joint candidate against Koirala for party president.
Though the proposed formula does not appear unsound, it is highly unlikely that Koirala can be beaten, at least for now. This explains why he may well dismiss their idea. However, that should be no reason for his rivals to shy away from laying a claim to the presidency in an electoral contest. Curiously though, the younger leaders have always expected the leadership to be handed to them on a silver platter without having to earn it. They will never be able to get it so easily. This applies to the issue of internal democracy, too, which has always been in short supply in the Congress. Without doubt, the Congress needs, at least, to elect all its CWC members before it can claim to have minimum internal democracy.