Taking responsibility

The election outcome has sent a seismic shock through two major parties — the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML, as well as some minor ones, such as the Rastriya Prajatantra Party. These two big parties suffered their biggest poll reverses in their electoral history, now performing slightly better than a new Tarai-based party, Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum, in the First-Past-the-Post round of the election, and the RPP drawing a blank for the first time. The heads of these three parties lost their own electoral bid too. Only the proportional round has saved them some face. The heads of these parties tendered their resignations on moral grounds, but only that of CPN-UML general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal has turned out to be serious, and the party’s central committee on Sunday accepted his offer, appointing Amrit Kumar Bohara as acting general secretary. There are no reasons to believe that RPP chief Pashupati Shumsher Rana’s resignation, rejected by the party’s central committee, was more than for public consumption.

More important, NC acting president Sushil Koirala’s ‘resignation’ was rejected by party president Girija Prasad Koirala. Soon after his defeat in the election, the acting president had announced his resignation, but he presided over the party’s central working committee (CWC) meeting on the first day at the behest of Koirala — nobody objected, and he, too, presided without any qualm. The ongoing CWC meeting was ignored. This is reflective of the kind of inner democracy the Nepali Congress practises. One of the interpretations put on the rejection is the fear that NC leader Sher Bahadur Deuba might otherwise land that job. Whatever the truth, when it comes to owning responsibility, party president GP Koirala must take the cake. Sushil Koirala has been the acting president for only a few months, helping to lighten the load of party responsibilities of the old and ailing party president.

But the other leaders who have played a crucial role in the shaping of their respective parties’ policy and decisions, including the decisions on the distribution of election tickets to candidates recently, cannot escape their share of the blame by finding scapegoats in one person — Sushil Koirala in the NC and Madhav Kumar Nepal in the CPN-UML. These parties’ poor showing is the result of a series of policies and actions over time. Particularly in the case of the CPN-UML, those who had been dead against the Left electoral alliance in the CA election should be additionally accountable, because this one miscalculation has cost the CPN-UML dear, and it might take the party years to recover lost ground. Record numbers of regional and district-level party committees of the NC and the CPN-UML have dissolved themselves on moral grounds because of the parties’ poor results. While local leaders are displaying this kind of moral responsibility, it does not behove central leaders to do otherwise. A new team of central leaders should be allowed to shape each party’s future direction. For this, each will have to hold its general convention — and with minimum loss of time.