Since U been gone

Efforts aimed at the re-unification of the two Congresses — the Nepali Congress led by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and the Nepali Congress (Democratic) led by former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba — seem to have picked up some momentum in recent weeks. On Monday, Koirala and former Congress president Krishna Prasad Bhattarai agreed to unite the two parties again. However, a lot more remains to be done to make things ripe for the merger. Earlier, too, Koirala had more than once called on the members of the Deuba-led faction to return to the parent Congress, but that did not work. Deuba, on his part, has been insisting on an ‘honourable’ deal that accords ‘respectable’ status to his party’s functionaries from the grounds up. Some political analysts read into the initiative a desire to gain a combined strength as Koirala faces rumblings over the road map to the constituent assembly (CA) elections among those who are pushing for a fundamental transformation of power structures and those who want to give at least ‘some space’ to the old order.

There is, however, no dearth of people who see in the reunification drive the guiding hand of forces whom the Congress is perceived by many to represent at present. Whatever the truth, there is no denying that the latest Congress split was engineered not over principles but over personal egos and ambitions of its major leaders, particularly Koirala, Deuba, and Bhattarai, who together have become the prime minister of Nepal ten times since 1990. It is also true that the House of Representatives had been dissolved by the then Congress prime minister Deuba at a time when Koirala was the party president, unleashing a chain of events that were far from beneficial for the country. In the process, these leaders may well have played into the hands of anti-democratic forces in varying degrees.

Whether the Congresses become one again or remain divided does not seem to interest the general public much. But the Congress holds the position of being one of the oldest parties that have fought for multiparty democracy more than once, albeit whose stupid actions are also perceived to have emboldened anti-democratic forces to seize power time and again. Ironically for such a historic party, its internal democracy leaves much to be desired, a matter that has also been raised by some Congressmen as some sort of a rider to the proposed merger. It would not be enough for the Congress stalwarts to denounce imaginary forces for their divisions. The reunion would hold any meaning for the people only if the Congress turned over a new leaf, transforming itself into a transparent, internally democratic party moved by liberal values and principles. Otherwise, the coming together of these political leaders, who are as of this moment arch-foes, would only amount to taking the Nepali people for a ride again if it was aimed merely at making opportunistic gains for them or satisfying friends at higher altitude.