Looking forward

The parties that have won seats in the Constituent Assembly under proportional representation system have held their central committee meetings to decide the final PR lists. Some of the parties’ meetings have been over (for instance, that of the CPN-Maoist), and the others are still continuing (for example, those of the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML). These central meetings are also expected to pave the way for a ‘restructuring’ of the parties concerned. Congress president and Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has realised the need to draw up new strategies for turning the party around in the days ahead. The Congress central working committee (CWC) is expected to take up the restructuring agenda when it resumes its meeting on May 10. Koirala is reported to have also said that the reforms should include changing the Congress from a leader-oriented to a policy-oriented party and adopt the principle of inclusion.

The Congress has long been in need of rejuvenation. The circumstances that favoured it in the past may not be as powerful as to put it in power, unless it establishes touch with the people at the grassroots again. Past glories — such as leading the movement against the Ranas 58 years ago, and jointly leading the movement with the Left parties in 1990 and 2006 — and sympathy of powerful foreign powers and their support for its being the major non-Left democratic party had made it self-complacent, regarding its ‘right’ to lead government as a given. But the development of powerful new domestic dynamics had been changing the popular electoral equations over the years - the Congress leadership had failed to understand their full import and devise effective strategies for correction. This time around, the re-unification of the two Congresses and the bright prospect of the split Left vote had lulled the Congress into a false sense of security. No doubt, the Left vote had split up in a major way. But at the same time, the percentage of the total Left votes had also increased significantly, and this, along with about one-third slide in the CPN-UML support base in favour of the CPN-Maoist, had given the Congress a rude shock. To some extent, the factor of Tarai agitation had played a role.

The Nepali Congress’ future policy, strategies and working styles will have to take these into account and start having an effect in its favour if it is to reverse its fortunes in the next general election. The introduction of full internal democracy is of crucial importance to any effort aimed at re-vitalisation.

Performance and integrity of party cadres and leaders should be established as the main criteria for reward and punishment, instead of their demonstrating loyalty to one top leader or another.

The making of final PR lists like something of a distribution of seats between the Koirala and

the Deuba camps betrays mindsets not ready to bring the old glory back to the Congress. The NC should also seriously review its 18-year-long performance, since the restoration of democracy in 1990, and learn lessons. But it must understand that its old strategies and tactics will be far from enough in these changed times.