The party is overIf the scale and depth of the current defeat doesn’t wake up the NC, what will
The fact that the ruling Nepali Congress (NC) has been routed in the current elections makes it clear that the party failed to appeal to large sections of the Nepali population. The failure of the top party leadership—especially that of party President Sher Bahadur Deuba—is evident.
Deuba has been accused of failing to establish strong alliances with other parties. He caused grave dissatisfaction within the ranks of his own party by promoting his own followers and marginalising people from other factions. In many places, he nominated people with weak ties to local areas as candidates for the election. And he failed to enthuse the population about his leadership.
It has long been known that Deuba is hardly a charismatic leader. In recent years, his popularity has further dipped. Very few among the electorate thought of him as a leader capable of making Nepal a just and prosperous state.
Moreover, the NC acutely lacks internal mechanisms to enable younger leaders to emerge within its ranks to occupy the top echelon. As a result, many of the Central Working Committee tend to be those who have been in the party for decades. The long allegiance to the party, rather than their electability, is seen as the test of leadership.
These are major weaknesses. If the NC is to be rejuvenated, it has to find ways to overhaul its party organisation to make it representative of Nepal’s diversity—a younger crop of leaders, particularly women and members of minority groups should be encouraged. As a first step, the party would do well to call a Special General Convention. The Convention should discuss freely what went wrong. Major reforms have to be adopted to make the party appeal to a broader demographic.
The NC’s organisation is particularly weak when compared to the left parties. The communist parties have fulltime cadres who are consistently working for the party. They also have a strong and hierarchical organisation. The NC, meanwhile, has never possessed a permanent cadre base. Their party members have always worked in an ad hoc manner. While it may not be necessary to exactly imitate communist party functioning, the NC would do well to make its members more active and disciplined.
Finally, the NC’s election campaign promises left a lot to be desired. It is evident that their claim that the left alliance would lead to communist authoritarianism failed to convince the population. Its other promises, such as those claiming that the NC was the only force that could implement the constitution, were equally vague. The left alliance’s election pitch—“stability for prosperity—on the other hand, was far more appealing to a huge number of Nepalis.
In the days ahead, the NC would do well to identify real needs and campaign on issues that have resonance with the population. If the current scale and depth of defeat doesn’t wake up the Nepali Congress, then what will?