NC likely to squander opportunity to evolveWhen the Nepali Congress, the largest party in Parliament, holds its 13th General Convention from Thursday, it will go down in history as the first party to hold the convention after the promulgation of the constitution that established Nepal as a federal democratic republic.
When the Nepali Congress, the largest party in Parliament, holds its 13th General Convention from Thursday, it will go down in history as the first party to hold the convention after the promulgation of the constitution that established Nepal as a federal democratic republic. The party, under whose government leadership the constitution was promulgated in September, has a great opportunity to revamp structures and policies in line with the new constitution. But going by what party insiders say, the NC is all set to squander the opportunity. The reasons are simple: infighting and lack of emphasis on policy debates within the party.
The Congress party, which was born in 1947, currently is divided between two distinct factions—one traditionally controlled by the Koirala clan, which is known as the establishment faction, and another led by senior leader Sher Bahadur Deuba.
Leaders from both factions rue the lack of concrete discussions on party’s ideology and policies as well as party structures as the NC prepared for its convention.
“The committee that was tasked with preparing a proposal on formulating party’s policy and programme failed to set the tone,” says Prakash Sharan Mahat from the Deuba camp, putting all the blame on Acting President Ram Chandra Poudel, who led the committee to draft the programme and policies.
Gagan Thapa of the establishment camp goes a step a further, saying none of the top leaders considered discussions on ideology and party structure a priority.
“We had prepared a draft aimed at transforming party structures as per constitutional provisions, but the party’s central committee did not take any decision on it,” says Ananda Prasad Dhungana, coordinator of party’s statute amendment committee. “I hope the Mahasamiti meeting after the convention will take a decision. Now convention is not going to take decisions in the spirit of federalism.”
Second-rung leaders complain that the upcoming convention is not going to be any different from the past conventions when it comes to reshaping party policies and structures.
Party’s Central Working Committee (CWC) endorsed the convention’s policies and programme document on Sunday with a very little discussion inside the party. Even though the CWC members had demanded that he document be rewritten on Saturday, it was endorsed a day later without any
substantial changes. The document says “implementation of the constitution is a key policy of party” but fails to outline any concrete plan and programme.
Neither the presidential hopefuls nor CWC members have organised discussions on party structures and its ideology.
Nationality, democracy and socialism are the key ideology of NC since its establishment.
Youth leaders say these core principles of party should be redefined in the changed context, especially after the country has gone through a sea change with the new constitution institutionalising federalism, republicanism and secularism.
When it was established in 1947, the principle goals of the party were overthrowing the Rana oligarchy and establishing a democracy.
After the establishment of democracy in 1950, the NC adopted the principles of democratic socialism as an economic policy of the country, saying that the political revolution had been completed and that the party’s focus should be on economic policy.
The main objective of democratic socialism was ending the social and economic inequality and discrimination in the society.
On the basis of the same policy, the NC rose to power in 1959 and tried to implement these provisions.
But king Mahendra in 1960 staged a coup, forcing the NC to focus its attention back on political revolution—that is restoration of democracy.
During the Panchayat system, introduced by king Mahendra, the economic policy was overshadowed.
After restoration of democracy in 1990, the NC stuck to democratic socialism. The party faced serious criticisms for its push towards liberal economy, which many said gave too much emphasis to the private capital at the expense of social justice.
But the focus on economy was short-lived, as Maoists insurgency and subsequent peace process gave rise to political instability.
Now, party leaders say the chapter of political revolution is over and that the party needs to focus on social and economic agenda.
Youth leaders are calling for the party to clearly articulate its economic policy in the changed context, redefining the principles of democratic centralism.
Youth leaders Pradeep Poudel, Gagan Thapa and Gururaj Ghimire have suggested to the party leadership that they come up with a clear plan on ending the rising unemployment, arguing that it would contribute to end discrimination in the society, which is the goal of democratic socialism.
The trio has also called on the party leadership to formulate a policy to strike a balance between market and government.
“Health, education, welfare state, economic growth and creating employment should be the key policy of the party,” says a document prepared by the three leaders, which will be distributed to party cadres during convention.
NC General Secretary Prakash Man Singh, however, says there is no need to have a discussion on party’s ideology.
“There is no need to hold intensive discussions party’s ideology,” Singh says. “What we need is a set of programmes and policies to meet the challenges in the changed context.”
“The party’s new focus will be on programmes and policies that promote economic growth by judiciously utilising the country’s resources. BP’s idea of democratic socialism does not mean distributing poverty; it means distributing prosperity,” Singh said.
Transforming party’s organisation in line with federal set-up is another hot issue in the NC.
The CWC meeting on Sunday decided to elect two CWC members each from all seven provinces. This is the only change in party’s structure that will be seen at the 13th GC convention.