Saturday, 16 January, 2021
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OPINION

NC's 'Flawed' Leadership



The Nepali Congress (NC) has lately discovered it in a mess, as the division among leaders has widened and the main opposition requires a hell lot of efforts to clean up the muddle in time if the party expects to claw back to power by improving its prospects in next polls. Addressing the differences among the feuding NC bigwigs will send a decisive message helping lift the spirit of the party workers and voters. For accomplishing this goal, the leadership should exhibit openness to accommodate all leaders in the party’s various bodies and committees according to their status, experience and ability, instead of playing divisive role.

Arbitrary attitude
NC’s chief Sher Bahadur Deuba must give up his arbitrary attitude to address the grievances of rival leaders that include many senior and experienced party functionaries. It, however, appears easier said than done. Critics accused Deuba of being the one who has led from the front to deepen the fissures. The rivals lately blamed the NC president of creating committees where he appointed his loyalists even after the announcement of the next party convention. Though his action has allegedly breached the party's statute and has raised an ethical question on his authority, he possibly chose this step to strengthen his electoral prospect in the party's election in the upcoming convention, likely to take place in summer, next year.
Senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel, who leads the rival faction against Deuba, has called on the latter to show respect to the statute by revoking new bodies and appointments. He warned that he and his friends would stage a hunger strike, if the president continued to look the other side, undermining his call. With Deuba preferring to fill the party committees unilaterally to win next term of party presidency, the party leaders are caught in slanging matches and name-calling, indicating that the race for the principal offices in the coming party elections has reached a fever pitch.
Earlier, the party chief, known for leading a select section of NC functionaries, had faced music for leading the party as a divisive boss. The miserable performance in the general and state polls three years ago drew plenty of criticism for him. Prominent leaders including Paudel, Shashanka Koirala, Krishna Prasad Sitaula and firebrand youth leader Gagan Thapa denounced the chief for the woeful results in the polls, which saw the then ruling party relegated to an obscure second place in the House, while the newly unified NCP won near two-thirds majority.
Also, the party won none of seven states in the state elections. The frustrated NC leaders and workers had then asked Deuba to shoulder the responsibility for the below-par electoral performance and quit his post which he denied outright. Even after suffering a huge election setback, the NC could not play an effective role of a dynamic opposition. Despite the ruling dispensation encountering corruption charges , nepotism and violation of the constitution on various occasions, the main opposition has abjectly failed making a full-throated campaign, dismaying the party workers and common citizens, who have expected the NC to uncover the wrong-doing and hold the ruling party accountable. The exposition would certainly heighten the poll prospect for the NC.
Nepali media, while decrying the NCP for its involvement in corruption, castigated the main opposition for its inaction against such acts. The Deuba-led NC’s lacklustre response to the corruption issue must have relieved the beleaguered ruling party that is passing through the toughest time at present. Incidentally, whenever an issue of corruption is raised, the NC leadership comes under suspicion of having his hands in such alleged acts, forcing the party to keep mum on the matter and to offer no response against the inappropriate incidents. For example, when media raised bribery during the wide-body plane acquisition, it has itself in a predicament because Deuba was alleged for his involvement in the scam.
Despite having an uneasy relation with many of his party colleagues, Deuba is said to have an ‘amicable’ bonding with NCP chair and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli. This came to fore when the factional division in the NCP deepened recently. A few days ago, Deuba and PM Oli had held a closed-room meeting. The hobnobbing with Oli did no good to him. Many NC and NCP leaders derided him for trying to reap benefits at the cost of NCP turmoil.
Besides, many critics took a swipe at Deuba for his failure to get wind of upcoming solidarity between the then UML and Maoist Centre, although the communist unity took place when he had headed the government, participated by the then Prachanda-led Maoist-Centre. As the rival party boss, he could not cause any disruption to the communist unity, let alone defeating the merged party in the polls despite heading the electoral government.
The NCP unleashed a telling blow on the oldest democratic party of the nation that has stayed in power most of the years ever since democracy was restored in the 1990s. With its wretched show in the three tier elections, the NC, many analysts say, is ‘awaiting’ the ruling party to split to see its poll prospect going up. However, if the ruling party patches up its differences and contests the next polls unitedly again, the NC will find it an arduous proposition to put up an impressive poll performance. The unified NCP, on the other hand, boasts of enough vote banks across the nation that can enable it to overwhelm any poll rival.

Consolidation
The NC undoubtedly faces a strenuous task ahead. First, it needs to stand united by either ending or narrowing the intra-party disputes. Deuba, being the captain of the NC ship, must steady his ship by starting the party consolidation process. As he eyes next tenure for party presidency, he too should act as an accommodating party boss. Even if he loses the party election, he should not create further factional divide for the sake of party's future. Other leaders who have been caught in the factional conflicts too should shed their rivalry so that the party can go to the polls with unity which can heighten the opportunity for party's victory. All congressmen are wary that no member will win, should the NC suffer continual losses in election.

(Upadhyay is Deputy Executive Editor of The Rising Nepal. nara.upadhyay@gmail.com) 

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