To new NC leadershipResolution to key issues will lead to stability and growth, which in turn leads to long-term stability
The Nepali Congress (NC) voted to elect its new leadership yesterday and by the time you read this, new leadership will have been decided, unless a second round of voting is required.
No matter who emerges victorious, there are bound to be significant ramifications upon the party’s new direction and, by extension, the country’s. First and foremost, this election will mark the end of a very long period of domination over the party by the Koirala family. Even if the panel led by Ram Chandra Poudel, which includes Shashank Koirala and has the support of the family, wins, the Koiralas’ hold over the party will be significantly weaker than in the past. For one, Shashank will have a junior position to Poudel. It is also unlikely that there will be many other Koiralas at the helm like in the past, although nearly a dozen are in the race for the Central Working Committee.
Second, some party leaders have said that the election will mark an end to factionalism that has prevailed in the party ever since it split in 2002. So far, this sentiment is more aspiration than reality. Divisions within the party are deeply entrenched and it will not be easy to overcome them. Still, the election does offer an opportunity for the largest party in Parliament to start functioning as a single unit, from the centre all the way down to the grassroots.
But whether this actually happens will depend on the strategies adopted by the new leadership. If the new party president adopts a far-sighted and magnanimous attitude, it could well lead towards a transformed party structure that is more united and efficient.
As for the elections and its influence on the broader political sphere, this could be most immediately evident when it comes to the Madhesi issue. Partially, in order to woo party members in the Tarai, all party presidential candidates have committed to maximum flexibility when it comes to the Madhes crisis—Sher Bahadur Deuba more so than others.
Still, there have been some doubts about such claims. After all, two contenders for party president themselves—notably Deuba and Krishna Prasad Sitaula—have been opposed to revising state boundaries in the past. On the larger picture, however, it is clear that the NC is much more amenable to seeking a compromise on the re-delineation of provinces than the ruling CPN-UML. Deuba is on record saying in more than one interview during the run-up to the party’s general convention that it will be necessary to reach an agreement that has the consent of the Madhesi population if the nation is to gain stability and make economic progress. Though he has kept short of articulating how he will go about it, he has said, including to this newspaper, that resolving the Madhes standoff remains one of his top priorities.
On the other hand, some senior political leaders from the NC and the UCPN (Maoist) have suggested that the UML remains the greatest obstacle to reaching an agreement with the Madhesi parties, and that, by implication, it would thus be necessary to replace the government soon after the NC election is over. This would be a drastic step.
As history demonstrates, replacing governments are protracted affairs that distract attention from the business at hand. At present, Nepal cannot afford further delays to resolving its outstanding issues. While we have noted the NC decision on Saturday to mobilise public opinion in favour of the constitution, we urge the new NC leadership to be mindful of grievances of the minority communities and do its best to take up this issue with a high degree of urgency as soon as it takes office.
Only with the political resolution of key outstanding issues can the country enter into a period of stability and move forward in achieving steady economic growth, which in turn will hugely contribute to long-term stability.