Foresight and handshakeIt is the first real indication of Deuba rising above partisan politics within the Nepali Congress
Last week, the Nepali Congress was embroiled in a major power struggle between various leaders and camps in what many in Kathmandu perceived as a regular conclave of one of the dozen sister organisations of the party. Having witnessed the whole weeklong episode through the lens of everything there was—a student of democracy, journalist and supporter of all associates—the convention of the youth organisation of the NC, Tarun Dal, corroborated a whirlwind of activities.
Tarun Dal has played a significant role in the party’s quest of over 60 years for democracy, nationalism and socialism against various autocratic regimes. On October 1953, BP Koirala, who was regarded by many as one of the greatest political personalities of the country and who was considered an advocate for individual liberty, civil and political rights and development, formed Tarun Dal as the party’s army to safeguard the citizens and their interests.
But it was only 40 years later that Tarun Dal transformed into an organisational structure across the country. It now boasts a composition just as the mother party. The sister wing has working committees in almost every ward, municipal council, town, constituency and district.
The youth muscle, considered the party’s backbone, contributed in all the major uprisings in Nepal. However, it has lost its charm over the years. The sister wing, of late, has fallen victim to the tussle within the mother party between various camps, preventing its general convention for over a decade. It was about 12 years ago that Tarun Dal held its 3rd general convention in Janakpur.
In 2012, when the outgoing Tarun Dal central committee was handpicked and the whole party equally divided between NC’s two rival camps, the youth organisation lost its vigour and purpose. Not only did the central body fall prey to internal power-hoarding, the whole organisation from top to bottom ended up being a playing field of influential leaders.
It resulted in Tarun Dal suffering from an ideological and visionary void. Cadres were not picked for their qualification, contribution and experience but for their loyalty. In the end, Tarun Dal’s central departments were left toothless and without much influence in the NC’s general convention in March despite a significant number of voters coming from a Tarun Dal background.
The 4th general convention of Tarun Dal in Pokhara saw a convergence of political clout in the party, something different from the traditional factional fights witnessed before. Earlier, the conclaves of two other sister wings—Nepal Students’ Union and Nepal Women Association—had the establishment side teaming up with the Krishna Prasad Sitaula group, whitewashing the Ram Chandra Poudel-led team. Poudel and his supporters recognised their dwindling influence and negotiated a respectful stand for their team in the youth wing. Situala’s team also bargained for as much space as possible.
Leaders camping in Pokhara for more than three consecutive days to devise their plan of action highlighted Tarun Dal’s importance and the influence it would have in the party’s functioning. Deuba, Poudel, Situala, Gopal Man Shrestha, Shashank Koirala and Prakash Man Singh all put their cards on the table, as did ministers Prakash Sharan Mahat, Ramesh Lekhak and Hridaya Ram Thani.
Many would still question if the largest democratic force in the country adopted an undemocratic move to settle the number of seats among the various camps in the party. But this newfound bond, many consider, is aligned with a broader vision of the NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba. Had the establishment chosen to go to polls, there was no doubt that it would have emerged victorious in the youth wing where it has had a major grip over the years.
This was the first real indication that Deuba has successfully risen above partisan politics to accommodate a larger set of leaders and cadres in the NC. Internally, Deuba will now be resting on his laurels when he gives the NC’s central body its full shape.
A unanimously elected body was not in the best interest of his camp or the previous Tarun Dal team, but this has to be considered a sacrifice for the broader interest of the party. Local elections, which the government has planned for March-April of next year, are around the corner. And since the constitution has decentralised much power to the hands of the local bodies, the upcoming polls will be crucial to safeguard the prospects of political parties as the country heads for provincial and federal polls within 14 months.
But it remains to be seen if the rival camps will gracefully accept the handshake Deuba has extended and adopt a united front going into villages and districts as the NC prepares for polls. If NC leaders embrace Deuba’s desire to tread hand-in-hand in such sensitive times when a section of the population is still waiting for a constitution amendment and the NC becomes the first party to move ahead with its implementation, it could once again assert its grip at the grassroots level and, maybe, give birth to another statesman through its ranks.
Ghimire is with the political desk at the Kathmandu Post