High noon GPK

Nepali Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala has made two significant statements in Biratnagar—first, he has hinted that he may not contest the election to the Congress presidency; secondly, the Maoists will respond ‘within a few days’ to the seven-party alliance’s proposal for talks. Koirala told journalists on Tuesday, “At the party’s forthcoming

general convention, the contest will be among the second generation leaders of the party.” Referring to the defeat of four-time Morang district president Ashok Koirala at the party’s district convention this week, the Congress president said that the Morang result has spread this message throughout the country. As for the Maoists, he hoped that their response would be ‘positive’.

One hopes that Koirala meant the contest for the presidency, not just for CWC membership, as the latter has not been at issue. However, his conditional “if the elections were held” gives room for some doubt. Nevertheless, the question arises why Koirala prompted the party’s CWC last December to make a highly controversial interpretation of the party statute, clearing the way for him to make a bid for the presidency for a third time. This interpretation has deepened fissures in the party. Besides, if the past is any guide, such hints or even formal announcements cannot be taken at face value until the event takes place. Whether Koirala stands down or not, he will remain the party’s supreme leader, as nobody else can match his clout and acceptability in the party, and run it successfully without his blessings.

The agitating parties’ proposed dialogue with the Maoists should be taken in the right spirit. But the problem arises from a legal perspective. The alliance cannot conclude agreements with them, as the State can. At best, the talks can contribute to conensus-building by identifying common areas for charting out a road map to peace. Koirala claims that the alliance has the support of the international community, including India, for this initiative. Indeed, all this would build further pressure on the establishment, making it increasingly difficult to carry out its political agenda. In that case, it would have to listen to the other political forces or risk being alienated further.