After February 1, major political parties have had problems reorganising themselves to push their agendas in the new situation. As a number of central leaders of the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML are under house arrest, for example, Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala and CPN-UML general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal, or under detention elsewhere, it has been necessary for these parties to name new faces to act for them. Sher Bahadur Deuba, the president of the NC-D, has chosen Gopal Man Shrestha, a senior leader unlikely to pose a threat to him, as acting president. But Congress president Koirala has been unable to name anybody, thus giving rise to factions within the party led by second-rung central leaders.

But it is the CPN-UML which has acted like an organised and coherent party more than the above two during this emergency. At its eighth central committee meeting, which concluded on Saturday, it has named politburo member Jhalanath Khanal acting general secretary, besides making some other changes in responsibilities. For example, politburo member Keshav Badal has become the secretary of the central secretariat and Surendra Pande has been put in charge of the Valley Coordination Committee. The meeting authorised the politburo to draw up a road map for a movement for ‘peace and democracy’. It also formed a nine-member committee under the convenorship of Khanal to review the past and submit within three months a report, which would largely determine the party’s future course of action. Also formed is a seven-member committee, with politburo member K. P. Sharma Oli as the convenor, to draw up a proposal for offering a way out of the present political imbroglio.

Meetings, committees, reports, etc. are all fine as long as they produce results. The party indulged in this kind of exercise from time to time in the past too. But that could not prevent the popularity of one of the two largest parliamentary parties from sliding to its all-time low level in the past 14 years. In the CPN-UML, because of factional fighting, leaders may now tend to blame one another for this mess and try to turn the occasion for wresting the leadership. But this will not resolve the party’s fundamental problems of opportunism, short-sightedness and personal greed of leaders. In recent years most of its political policies have been a string of disasters, the latest being its rashness to join the ill-fated Deuba government on the plea of a ‘partial correction of regression’. All this shows that, far from having a statesman, the party, it seems, lacks even good politicians. So the CPN-UML needs not only a complete overhaul of its policies but an internal purification campaign, which will be more important.