Congress’ awareness campaign fails to enthuse party members who say problem lies with top leadershipFactional feud, ad hoc attitude and reluctance to embrace change are the bane of the party, leaders say
After a drubbing in the 2017 elections, realisation dawned upon the Nepali Congress, which always prided itself on being the torchbearer of democracy and social justice, that it does not take time for proud to wilt and disappear. A strong communist force came to power and the Nepali Congress has a poor presence in Parliament. Now the party is in search of its lost glory.
And as part of that bid, the Nepali Congress recently organised a monthlong “jagaran abhiyan” (awareness campaign), which concluded last week.
But did the campaign help inject new vigour in the party?
Party leaders who participated in the campaign said that the cadres at the grassroots were of the view that the factional feud was the bane of the party.
Senior leader Ram Sharan Mahat said the party found out there were more questions than answers during the campaign.
“Most of the Congress cadres are angry with the leadership for failing to unite the party and inject new vigour after the election defeat,” Mahat told the Post. “They complained that the problem emanated from the leadership level and there was no problem at the grassroots level as such.”
Congress party members for long have attributed the election defeat to factional feud in the party. And unless the top leaders sort their issues out, it will be difficult for the party to bounce back, multiple leaders told the Post.
Guru Baral, a local level leader from Kaski, said the Congress is running low on energy. “The ‘jagaran abhiyan’ may have given some sense of belongingness to party members, but to bring about a massive change in the party, the leadership needs to end intra-party factionalism,” Baral told the Post. “We urged the party leadership to stop bickering. The party has failed to provide us a dedicated organisational set-up and policy in line with the new federal set-up. Leaders delegated from the centre have failed to suggest any formula that can unite the party.”
Of late, calls are growing in the party to prepare for the general convention, but this issue has been on the backburner largely due to the reluctance of party President Sher Bahadur Deuba.
Party leaders say the general convention would give some direction to the party to move ahead in the new political set-up the country has embraced.
The party has yet to form provincial and regional committees as per the new set-up. In line with new federal structure, the party has amended the party charter and has adopted a new organisational set-up, but it is yet to get complete shape. That apart, the party’s sister wings are functioning on an ad hoc basis, according to leaders.
“Now the first phase of the jagaran campaign is over and it’s time to hold the general convention,” said Shekhar Koirala, a Central Working Committee member. “The party is running on an ad hoc basis. The present leadership has failed to re-energise the party.”
The Congress held its 13th general convention in March 2016, which elected Deuba as the party president.
But criticism has grown against Deuba for running the party unilaterally, not holding discussions and not paying enough attention to what the party members say. This tendency of Deuba has pitted him against other groups within the party led by different leaders.
At a press conference organised to disseminate information about the ‘jagaran abhiyan’ last week, party spokesperson Bishwo Prakash Sharma admitted that there were concerns from the leaders and cadres across the country about the way the party was functioning.
“A majority of the leaders and cadres told us that the party should change its working style,” Sharma said. “We welcome such suggestions and feedback. We will incorporate all those suggestions that will help strengthen the party.”
To strengthen the party, it needs to form the departments and other party structures. But this has not happened because top leaders in Kathmandu are hardly on the same page, leaders said.
Ram Harai Khatiwada, a Congress youth leader, said the top leadership should take the concerns expressed by party members during the campaign seriously.
“There has been sheer frustration among the general public against the current government and its activities,” said Khatiwada. “The Congress party can capitalise on it; but our leadership has been largely ineffective.”
According to Khatiwada, jagaran (awareness) is needed at the top level of the party. “Members at the lower level are very much united and they are duly following party guidelines,” said Khatiwada. “It’s the top leaders who are ruining the party; they need to work hard to reinvigorate the party. For the party to regain its lost glory, we need to end the factional feud and keep the party united.”