The Nepali Congress (NC), for many years, a torch bearer of democracy and a change agent of modernity and development has been reduced to a mediocre force. The major problem with the NC is that it is still managed like a movement and lacks the credentials of a vibrant party which inter alia contains: internal democracy , independently functioning departments , a reasonable amount of funds and an institutional memory that tracks the contributions of party cadres and rewards/ punishes them as per their deeds. The NC’s decision-making apparatus is so highly centralized and autocratic that when the top leaders fall sick, the entire party is paralyzed .The recent phenomenon of Sujata Koirala being promoted to the Deputy Prime Minister has created a tsunami within the central working committee. What can be expected when power is concentrated only in a few?
In the CA election which did not have reliable security arrangements (the army was held back in the barracks), the Maoists partly, benefiting from the lacklustre performance of past governments, and also outwitting their rivals in the use of 3G (a typical modus operandi of emerging democracies ) - guns, goons and Greenbacks - emerged as the largest party in the Constituent Assembly (CA) and the NC became a distant second with only 119 seats. None of its departments, except the foreign department headed by DPM Sujata Koirala, function as no other departmental heads have been nominated. Most district working committees are inactive in the matter of organization strengthening and a few are actually weakening themselves owing to internal squabbles. The Centre has made no genuine efforts in this regard.
In the upcoming NC Mahasamiti (General Committee) meeting (1st - 3rd Nov), the party must seriously debate its future course. It is in dire need of a major transformation -especially the need for internal democracy, inclusive and institutional decision making, cadre evaluation and party funding. The party must be able to cope with the challenges posed by the UCPM-Maoist and the CPM-UML which are well organized, have good organizational network at the grassroots level and are also flush with funds - a must for any party aspiring for leadership. Both of them also have full time party workers and also carry the credentials of having pioneered pro-poor programmes. But, the NC cannot lay claim to any such.
It is unfortunate that the NC has actually lost its ideological moorings grounded on democratic socialism- which provided a healthy balance between capitalistic growth, equitable distribution and provision of equal opportunities. The NC has been a faithful follower of the LPG (liberalization, privatization and globalization) development model spearheaded by the World Bank and IMF. In the process, the government
relied too heavily on the provision for even such social goods as electricity
by the private sector resulting in the current load shedding and plunging the nation into the present state of deprivation.
In a nutshell, the NC clearly failed to provide policies, programmes and good governance to uplift the nation’s socio-economic status since it was too engrossed in internal squabbles to capture power and reward the faithful of one of the two groups that the party had been divided into. However, everything is not lost yet.
The NC has a large pool of devoted, talented and energetic middle level party leaders and workers ready to rise to the occasion and work honestly and tirelessly towards rebuilding the party if there were to be a leadership that would be able to energize the party as a whole rather than a small coterie as is the current practice.
The Mahasamiti, in no uncertain terms, must provide directions for the party’s future course and ensure that the party in its upcoming General Convention will attain the following: A new leadership that is committed to institution building and internal democracy; a review and reaffirmation of its ideological philosophy that will give topmost priority to the upliftment of the masses rather than the few; to work unremittingly towards achieving a system of inclusive decision making as required by the new federated republic, to make the party cadre based rather than mass based and to develop its war chest through compulsory and voluntary contributions; and to provide security to its workers in times of adversity.
Ultimately, the NC must ensure its future by learning from the past and working conscientiously in the present to rebuild the faith and respect of the many who have sided with it even in very difficult times.
For this, the party needs to work under a new
paradigm that respects talent, hard work and sacrifice to personal loyalty and servitude. It must combine the wisdom and experience of senior leaders to the energy and vitality of its talented youth force in order to not only maintain its commendable past but to ensure its bright future as well.
Thapa is NC Mahasamiti Member