Underneath it all

As the 11th general convention of the Nepali Congress (NC) commences in Kathmandu tomorrow under abnormal circumstances, it is expected to take extraordinary decisions. It can skirt such key issues as constitutional monarchy vs republic, as well as constituent assembly at its own peril, as these have dominated public debate in recent times. It will elect the party president and half the central working committee (CWC) members, if the convention

retains, as is likely, the existing provisions. For a party which has rarely held its triennial conventions in time, the present event has been necessitated also by the constitutional provision for the election of party office-bearers at least once every five years.

Though there are many, including this newspaper, who still see the relevance of a truly constitutional monarchy to the country, it must, however, be admitted that pro-republican sentiment has grown in the country, including in the NC, where it was a taboo until the turn of the century. Central member Narahari Acharya, recently dubbed ‘royalist’ by party president Girija Prasad Koirala, has, paradoxically, announced his candidacy for the party’s top post, with a line that calls for the deletion of all and any reference to the monarchy from the party statute, thus freeing the party from its traditional commitment to the monarchy. But Koirala supports the status quo, declaring recently that raising the republican agenda was meant only as a bargaining chip against the palace.

It is for the Congress delegates to make their choices. But the party should take a clear and unambiguous line that does not mislead or confuse the public. Just because the party takes a particular line, history may not choose to march in step. So if the Congress cannot rise to the occasion, it may well fall behind. Obviously, the current political arrangements cannot go on for long, nor does the framework of the 1990 Constitution alone seem likely to ensure a lasting solution to the conflict and meet the popular aspirations. Therefore, the success of the convention will depend on how fully it can take into account these realities. Besides, to make the NC a truly democratic party internally, it will have to start electing all its CWC members, as a first step.