New Congress chief has his task cut outAs Sher Bahadur Deuba takes the reins of the Nepali Congress, he has a daunting task of living up to the legacy of his predecessors.
As Sher Bahadur Deuba takes the reins of the Nepali Congress, he has a daunting task of living up to the legacy of his predecessors.
His first task will be to provide momentum to the country’s oldest and largest party, which was marred in factional politics until the run-up to the leadership vote. Deuba has promised to unite the party, but that is easier said than done. Ending factional politics would require accommodating the many aspirants within his camp and outside in key roles.
Besides the top post, the party is also holding elections for 63 positions including the secretary general, treasurer and Central Working Committee members. A favourable shape of the CWC is key for the NC president to make crucial decisions, among other tasks.
How he will accommodate them will be watched keenly. As Deuba himself opposed increasing the number of officer bearers to foment dissent within the establishment camp ahead of the poll, he may have to rethink his position post-election. Deuba could call the Mahasamiti meeting immediately after the convention to amend the party statute for increasing the number of key officials, according to party insiders.
“Leadership isn’t just about reaching the top,” said Prof Krishna Khanal. “A lot will depend on how the leadership drives the party forward while taking key people within the party into confidence.”
Deuba had campaigned on the platform of ending factionalism in the party—setting up a proper system of evaluating cadres’ contribution. Whether he will translate his promise into action will be scrutinised by the party rank and file.
He should accommodate those who lost the party election and make the party appear united “both structurally and emotionally”, said a leader close to the establishment faction. “A divided NC cannot play a decisive role in national politics.”
“First he has to give a message that the party is not divided in the 60:40 ratio,” said NC leader Narayan Khadka. Addressing the grievances of the Madhes-based parties and regaining the NC’s hold in the Tarai were other challenges before the new leadership.
The late president, Sushil Koirala has left several unfinished tasks: forming party departments and holding general assemblies of many sister organisations of the party. Deuba will be pressed to complete these tasks.
Deuba has publicly said that he would take a lead in ending the political and constitutional crisis facing the country. Implementing the new constitution is another task before the NC leadership. “The NC leadership should also bring the Tarai/Madhes-based parties on board. NC has to regain its presence in Tarai that the party enjoyed in the mid-90s,” said Khanal.
The structures of the Office Bearers and the CWC will determine whether Deuba will get a free hand in imposing his priorities. The results on Tuesday will make the picture clearer for Team Deuba.
“We will sit together, explore the challenges and try to sort them,” said Purna Bahadur Khadka, a close aide to Deuba.