Grand party of Nepal in throes of transformation

KATHMANDU: Nepali Congress (NC), the oldest and biggest non-communist party of the country, is said to be changing its organisational structure and leadership. The party is preparing to revise its statute to, what it calls, reshape its organisation and to instill a new spirit among party leaders and cadres. The party’s general convention believed to be held by March 13, 2010, is likely to adopt a new leadership modality.

The largest democratic party, the NC faced several ups and downs since the restoration of democracy in 1990. Split, lack of intra-party democracy and loss of many leaders and cadres mainly to Tarai-based parties that sprang up after the success of the Jana Andolan II, are some of the setbacks the parties withstood. In this context, the new-generation leaders seem to be excited to revive the party to give it a new lease of life. However, if the party failed once again to take into account the possible causes of the losses, it would face a greater misfortune in the future, say party workers.

Ongoing Central Committee (CC) meeting of the party is holding discussions on the proposed revised statute drafted by a committee led by Krishna Prasad Sitaula and on the timetable and programmes relating to the upcoming GC proposed by general secretary Bimalendra Nidhi.

The revised statute has opened up discussions on the proposed concept of collective leadership in order to replace the current unitary model in the party. The party president is presently the single most powerful entity in the party as s/he can nominate more than 50 percent members as well as officials. The president also enjoys most power when it comes to passing a decision by the CC. But the proposed collective leadership system allows the president limited right for selecting candidates for the key party posts and CC slots. Consequently, the president will be less powerful in the new system.

Though the issue is yet to discussed in the ongoing CC meeting, a majority of central members are publicly throwing their weight behind the collective leadership. President Girija Prasad Koirala and acting president Sushil Koirala have given their views in support of present unitary leadership system while other prominent leaders including Sher Bahadur Deuba, Ram Chandra Paudel and Bimalendra Nidhi are yet to make their opinion public in this regard.

President Koirala, organising a tea party at his residence in Maharajgunj, yesterday urged party leaders, not to make the post of the party president weak by fully adopting collective leadership. “There has to be a balance between the candidates to be elected by the GC and those to be nominated by the president for party posts in order not to weaken the leadership while running the party,” Koirala reportedly told CC members on the occasion. He stressed that the party could not function well if the top post was weakened. Joint general secretary Arjun Narsingh KC said, “We must now adopt the concept of collective leadership since the unitary leadership has proved ineffective for the party.”

Some NC leaders, including acting president Sushil Koirala are of the opinion that collective leadership would invite power struggle as the directly elected officials and members could try to exercise equal power. They might also not cooperate well with the president, which ultimately invites power struggle in the party as is the case of the UML after its general convention held in February. Moreover, they say, the president cannot work efficiently.

Salient features of the

proposed statute:

• 71-member Central Working Committee (CWC)

• President - 1 (elected)

• Vice Presidents - 2 (one elected and another nominated by party president)

• General Secretaries - 3 (two elected, one nominated by president)

• Joint General Secretaries - 3 (two elected, one nominated by president)

• Treasurer -1 (nominated by president)

• CWC members - 20 (directly elected)

• CWC members - 10 (elected under inclusive provision)

• CWC members - 18 (nominated by president)

• CWC members - 14 (elected from regions or provinces)

• Mahasamiti members

will have voting rights in the GC

• Mahasamiti members - 11 from each constituency and 7 from each sister organisation or an affiliated organisation

Central members Govinda Raj Joshi and Binaya Dhoj Chand have registered a separate proposal at the party office, which also pleads for collective leadership. It has proposed an 85-member central committee, 80 per cent of whom to be elected. “The party cannot move ahead without adopting the collective leadership model post GC. If the present leadership tries to impose the unitary model again, we will present the issue for voting in the CC,” said Joshi. The collective leadership model will be passed since a majority of members are supporting this, he claimed.

Though the NC is prepared to transform itself, it has numerous challenges. No single leader seems to be capable of keeping the groups divided by opinion into one fold. Thus, the emerging leaders or the presidential aspirant in the GC will be seriously examined for their ability. If the historic party was left to be shouldered by only one second generation leader, the party might face a split or an even greater loss.

Other influential leaders are also not ready to accept the leadership of a single most powerful person after the retirement of Girija Prasad Koirala from the presidency. Hence, the party has no option but to adopt the collective leadership. In the new organisational set up, the president will have to compromise with the CWC, most of whom directly elected. Still, s/he stands to be the most powerful person, backed by four officials and 18 CWC members to be nominated by him/her. NC’s organisation and policies must be revamped to make the party function in a professional way.

It is necessary at a time when regional parties are being established to suit the country’s resolve to embrace federalism. Failure to appreciate this reality will cost the party more since it will see desertion by more leaders and cadres.

— Pushpa Bhusal, NC CA and statute drafting committee member