A glass half-fullThe NC, the oldest democratic party of our country, is most undemocratic in its practices
The general convention (GC) of the Nepali Congress (NC) took place at a time when common people have lost hope from the system and the government. An ever escalating number of youths are leaving the country for employment or permanent settlement outside the country; national, ethical and moral integrity has sunken into an abyss; and the voices of those who want to make a change are simply ignored.
Nepal is in need of an ethical, social, political and economic overhaul. Against this background, people were closely observing the NC convention, the oldest and largest democratic party of the country that has shown unflinching commitment to nationalism, democracy and socialism for the past seven decades.
Never ending struggle
Nepal as a nation has long been at the crossroads due to its geopolitical location between two Asian giants, India and China. The NC has tried to safeguard Nepal’s ethos as a nation despite several domestic and international challenges. Several times, the NC has been blamed for being anti-national by left wing ultra-nationalists, for whom blaming the neighbours is the only way to safeguard the nation. One has to learn that nations do not become strong through jingoistic sloganeering, but by seriously working for social, ethical, political and economic reforms. An economically dependent nation cannot save its social, political and nationalistic ethos. Self-empowerment is the key to self-identity and the NC has to internalise it without any delay.
Nepal has fought a long battle for democracy against the Rana autocracy, absolute monarchy and later against communists of various shades. Several times, the NC fought a successful battle for democracy and established a democratic system, but lost owing to an attack on it from various quarters. After the peaceful resolution of the Maoist insurgency, Nepal has promulgated a democratic constitution under the government led by the NC. However, the constitution is in question. The Tarai-based parties launched a movement protesting some of its provisions. So did some other groups. It is time for the NC to rethink of ways to consolidate this constitution so that the democratic system is accepted and the party does not have to fight another battle to safeguard democracy.
The time has come to practise democracy as the fight for democracy is over.
Practise what you preach
Unfortunately, the NC, the only democratic party of our country, is most undemocratic in its practices. It has become more leader and leadership oriented than democratic-practice oriented. It is evident from the selection of convention members in many constituency conventions. At the centre, the party is all the more dictatorial where a few leaders make all major decisions and the common cadres have no say.
This undemocratic culture is widespread in the national politics. The recent constitution making process where major decisions were made by the chosen leaders of big political parties outside the Constituent Assembly composed of 601 people’s representatives is a case in point. Such undemocratic practices have been largely responsible for the failure of democracy in Nepal. The NC has to work out plans for making the party democratic from top to bottom. Such a practice will discourage sycophancy within the party corridors, and make political leaders and cadres from local to central level more responsible, respected, independent and upright.
Thus, the party direly needs to embody democratic practices within the NC. To do so, the party has to be more democratic and adopt a system in which everyone has a share and partnership—the local, regional and national levels need to work together and the leadership should be independent, responsible and people-oriented.
BP Koirala propounded the principles of the party. He envisioned democratic socialism as the foundation for the nation’s political and economic development. He even tried to adopt it when he worked as the first elected prime minister. The NC leaders have simply been reiterating the cliché of democratic socialism without internalising that we are now a member of the World Trade Organisation. We have given up advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of production and distribution of goods. We are in favour of a liberal economy in this phase of globalisation.
In the present context, it is imperative for the NC to redefine its principles, set the party’s agenda and adopt concrete policies that can salvage the nation from all the chaos it has been pushed into in recent times. It cannot afford to remain complacent with reiterating that it is a party that upholds the principles of nationalism, democracy and socialism. It has to spell out how Nepal will consolidate nationalism by empowering and strengthening its domestic economy. The NC needs to make people understand that those who rely on the begging bowl have no identity.
Moreover, the NC leadership has to clarify what principle the party will follow to revamp the nation socially, politically and economically; and what social welfare and security strategies it will adopt. Apart from clarifying its foundational principles, the party should project its political vision of accommodating the dissenting voices in the Tarai, implementing the present constitution successfully, making the provincial governments in the federal structure functional, reviving the local bodies, gearing up domestic production for economic enhancement and independence, reducing reliance upon foreign aid which is simply paralysing the Nepali psyche, addressing the gradually emerging feelings of otherness among various sections of the population, and most importantly, building the confidence of the people that ‘Nepal is not a failed state’. The greatest threat for Nepal is that the youths want to leave the country and never come back. The party has to raise hope and confidence in the face of looming dejection and disappointment of Nepali youths.
Who leads a party is all about the internal politics of the party, a non-entity for common people; what vision a party has and what policies it sets to fulfil the vision arewhat actually matter.
Joshi is Head of Central Department of English at Tribhuvan University