Sushil against collective leadership in NC
Sushil Koirala, 66, is Acting President of Nepali Congress and has announced his candidacy for NC’s presidency in upcoming General Convention. He is known as the leader who rejected many offers to become minister when his party was in power after 1990’s political change. Koirala, who has been a bachelor, has devoted most of his time to party organisation. However, he has been criticised for being involved in groupism in the party. In an interview with Prakash Acharya and Kamal Dev Bhattarai at his residence in Buddhanagar, he spoke about the peace process, Unified CPN-Maoist and the NC. He said group entry of Maoist combatants in army will never be acceptable to the NC. On the issue of ‘collective leadership’, which is being discussed in the NC, he said, “It is not an appropriate idea in the Asian context and it could backfire, as it made the
leadership weak and fostered groupism and power clash.” He said though the NC had to face hard time in the past, it would be revitalised in the upcoming general
convention with new leadership. He urged the party leaders and activists to learn from GP Koirala’s charismatic leadership.
What challenges do you see in the peace process?
The Unified CPN-Maoist is the biggest threat to the peace process. The party’s conspiracy against the peace process came to the fore when it was leading the government. It started intervening in the Nepali Army with an aim to capture power. Suspicion against it reached a climax when it decided to sack Chief of Army Staff Rookmangud Katawal. Not only the NC, 18 other parties also advised President Ram Baran Yadav to prevent the disaster. Had he not taken the step, the UCPN-M would have taken over the power. The Maoists are blatantly violating the peace process. They never wanted to return the properties seized during the conflict. All their activities show that they were not honest to the peace process and are motivated by vested interest. The process of rehabilitation and integration of Maoist combatants is another challenge to the peace process. The Maoists must accept the reality of peace process. If they don’t change they will be finished.
What is NC’s view on the integration of Maoist combatants into Nepal Army and other security bodies?
The NC will never accept collective induction of Maoist combatants into national army. The Comprehensive Peace Accord does not say anything about it. They can either be integrated into the society or deployed in other areas of social security, such as industry. If they want to join the NA, they should go through NA’s rules, which a general Nepali citizen should follow.
Why does the NC want management of the combatants before writing of the
Since the management of combatants is one of the major components of the peace process, they must be managed before writing of the constitution. The Maoists want
to put off the issue of managing their combatants till writing
of the constitution because they want to establish their own system by isolating
other parties. The process of writing the constitution and managing the combatants must go hand in hand.
You have announced your candidacy for the post of NC’s president. How will you reform the party?
I rejected many opportunities of becoming minister when the NC was in power.
I could even have become the Prime Minister. But I wanted to establish discipline in the party. I wanted to establish norms, values, ideals, and a proper system to evaluate the party workers. I will fight for removing groupism in the party. I want to move ahead taking the young generation into confidence. The responsibility of running the party will be handed over to the young generation, as we, the second-generation leaders, will not be at helm for long.
You have been accused of fostering ‘groupism’ in the party. How do you defend yourself?
This allegation is baseless. Why should I be involved in groupism and for what? I express my views clearly and firmly in the party. If I had wanted to play power games in the NC’s governments, I could have become a minister many times over. But I rejected all such offers and worked for the party’s organisation. I request party leaders and activists not to make baseless allegations and point out my wrongdoings in front of me.
Why has the party’s popularity declined continuously since the political change of 1990?
The three leaders — Girija Babu, Ganeshmanji and Kishunji — should have established a system in the party after the demise of BP Koirala. But, misunderstanding among them reached a climax after 1990’s political change. It created vast rift in the
party, which eroded the party strength. Moreover, the party could not institutionalise the decision-making process. Anarchy flourished in the party, as the party failed to maintain discipline. A weak evaluation system discouraged party activists and leaders. The trend of individualism also weakened the party. The party will get a new lease of life after the upcoming GC. The GC, which has been postponed twice, will be held by mid-February and we will soon fix a date for the same.
The concept of ‘collective leadership’ has been proposed in your party. Do you think it is the best way to improve the party functioning?
Some say the three leaders — Sher Bahadur Deuba, Sushil Koirala and Ram Chandra Paudel — should collectively lead the party after Girijababu retires. But I think, this is not a good idea. The important thing is that there should be institutional decision-making system and not personalised one. If we opt for collective leadership through electing office-bearers and most of the members, the party cannot work perfectly. Moreover, it will give rise to groupism, non-cooperation and power clash. In a presidential system, office bearers and members are the helpers of the
president. So, collective leadership could backfire. The office bearers and 50 per cent
members should be nominated by the party president. Let’s evaluate the situation of CPN-UML, which has been following collective leadership since recent past. It has created groupism and power centres in the party. Even in other countries of Asia including India, the practice of collective leadership has not sustained. The present presidential system should be continued.
The influence of communist parties has been growing in the country. NC’s poor showing in the past polls also reflects that. Do you think the NC will regain its earlier position and become a force to reckon with?
I can confidently say that democratic thought has great future. As the NC is the only party with democratic history and follows an ideology of democratic socialism, it represents real democracy in Nepal. We lost elections and position because of some anomalies such as individualism, lack of respect for democratic norms and values. All such anomalies will be removed from the upcoming general convention and the party will get a new lease of life.
Do you think Koirala family’s legacy will continue in the future?
Our actions, behaviour and ability, not the family’s history, will carry us forward.
Why did you never get married?
I never got a chance to think about marriage as I devoted the better part of my youth struggling for a political career. My own life was full of uncertainties. In such a situation I did not want to get married. After I crossed youth, there was no question of thinking about marriage. You can say I am wedded to democracy.