Time for change

The meeting of the Nepali Congress central working committee (CWC), under way since Monday, is important in that it is the first CWC meeting since the party refused to join the Maoist-led government. It has also to address issues relating to the NC’s direction and strategy in the new situation and resolve several internal matters, the most important of which is whether to organise the party’s general convention at the earliest, as the three-year term of the incumbent leadership expires next week. The CWC, however, can decide to extend the term for one year, twice at most. But the provision of extension is incorporated to allow for unavoidable circumstances. The Congress held its last convention during the active royal rule where the political parties had been dislodged from power unconstitutionally. Now the coast is clear and any perception of major hurdles can only be imaginary.

Two schools are now competing in the Congress - one is all for organising the party’s supreme body without delay; the other wants to postpone holding the convention. The self-interest of those in favour of deferral is that a convention means the exit of the incumbent leadership. The octogenarian party president, Girija Prasad Koirala, cannot stand for election again, as he has already served his maximum two terms. There is no guarantee that a Koirala loyalist will be elected to control the party. But it is not just for the sake of leadership change that a general convention is called for. First of all, it is a requirement for any party that practises internal democracy. Regrettably, the Congress has hardly ever held its general convention on time even after the restoration of democracy in 1990.

Because of the party’s present peculiar internal organisational problems, it may take a little more

time than normal to prepare fully for the convention. But that can be no excuse for deferring the convention as long as possible. Even leaders and workers of the Congress frankly admit that the two Congresses have become united physically but not emotionally yet. The power sharing formula of 60-40 between the two camps - the two former parties - still manifests itself all across the party, including its sister organisations, from central to the local level. This gives some odour of an uneasy cohabitation of two parties under a single umbrella. This must end if the Congress is to emerge as a revitalised party. And this only the convention can do. Since the Congress’s 11th convention, the political situation of the country has radically changed, such as the success of Jana Andolan II, the start of the peace process, the holding of the CA election, the Congress debacle and the emergence of the CPN-Maoist as the single largest political party, the abolition of the monarchy, the many political pledges made by the political parties, including the establishment of a federal state, and the formation of a Maoist-led government without the Congress. Therefore, it is necessary that a new party leadership enjoying a fresh mandate set about reinventing the party with new vigour and new vision. The old leadership without a new mandate will hardly be equal to the many huge challenges before the Congress.