Now the hard partPeople hope to see structural changes in the Nepali Congress following Deuba’s win
The 13th General Convention of the Nepali Congress (NC) has elected Sher Bahadur Deuba as the new president of the party. His victory marks a paradigm shift in the party with leadership passing from the Koirala family for the first time in more than two decades. Though the Koiralas have headed the party for many years in the past, and the NC has nearly become synonymous with the Koirala dynasty, their performance has not been very notable. Now that change has been ushered into the party after a long wait, people are hopeful of seeing structural changes in the NC.
Political parties are the building blocks of national politics and democracy, but their strength comes from the people. However, the Nepali people have been losing faith in political parties and harbour deep angst against them as they have largely failed to address public sentiments. The NC is no exception. The people have taken to the streets more than once to alter or abolish the existing system with expectations of peace, progress, prosperity and economic development, only to be disappointed with the new establishment. The NC had many opportunities in recent years to take initiatives to empower and strengthen the nation’s progress, but it failed to do so.
At the same time, our neighbours India and China have reached enviable levels of development. Similarly, Taiwan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam in the neighbourhood have experienced exceptional economic growth in recent decades. But Nepal seems to be going in reverse and has wasted a lot of time in the name of, first, the insurgency and, second, the transition. Due to frequent political changes and various sorts of power experimentations, the country’s economic aspirations have been constantly put on hold.
The role of political parties is crucial for a nation’s progress. The NC has been given credit for being the first democratic party in the country and ushering in democracy and the recent people’s constitution. But democracy and rights mean little when people are reeling under poverty. At this juncture, the Nepali people are only concerned about economic prosperity and neither have the time nor the patience for political manoeuvrings. The political upheavals in the past two decades have been rendered meaningless as political instability does not seem to end in the country. The NC is equally responsible for this fiasco. And the party’s sheer failure to manage things has led many to distrust it.
Still, the NC has fared better than other political parties like the Maoists that have split numerous times in recent years. Moreover, being a democratic party always gets you extra points against the communists in the international arena. Even among the people, the concept of democracy and socialism works better. Although the Congress receives greater admiration nationally and internationally due to its ideology, it has not been able to use this goodwill to its advantage. This is largely due to the Koiralas who were always more concerned about maintaining their grip on the party than developing the country.
Role of a leader
People have faith in a political party that has solid programmes to bring about change. Parties have to come with a mission and actions to lift the lives of the people, not mere laws. And if there are politicians with that spirit, faith in the parties can be revived. Modi did so in India for the BJP. Tony Blair revived the glory of the Labour Party and Franklin D Roosevelt did the same for the Democrats. They had a clear vision to transform their nation through the party’s action plan. Nepali parties seem to be seriously failing to generate such warm optimism among the people as they do not have a roadmap to transform the nation. The Congress too has not done anything remarkable on this front.
Sometimes, a country may suffer because of bad parties and bad leaders. The only corrective step which can be taken is improving the parties and rectifying the leaders’ attitude. Democracy can never be imagined in the absence of parties and leaders. Thus, they must be strengthened. As the Congress has made a remarkable shift, it is to be hoped that Deuba will be able to deconstruct the NC discourse. He should make the party rise above nepotism and favouritism. The public should be assured that it has the programmes to address mass sentiments and revive the glory of being a Nepali.
The Congress should at least present ways to assure speedy economic progress, move the country from an illusory remittance-based economy to a self-generated sustainable economy, resolve the problem of unemployment and work to bring significant changes in the daily lives of the masses. Deuba, who has been blamed for surrendering to the palace and submitting the sovereignty to the palace, has time to show his commitment and competency to strengthen democratic norms and values. Deuba can deconstruct and dignify the Congress which is at a crossroads. Hope he can bring modern action plans to the party and end the feeling of hopelessness among the people. If he cannot do so, he can leave the party with decaying dignity.
Dahal holds a PhD on Issues of Nation Building