Nepali Congress (NC) is all set to convene the party congress during the upcoming months. As it has been postponing its conventions time and again due to one or the other reasons, the party will have to face the consequence of breaching the mandatory constitutional provision should it go for postponing the scheduled 15th national convention this time too due to this or that excuses. The special feature of the Constitution of Nepal, 2015 is that it enshrines provisions that regulate the party affairs, their structure and functions. The areas of regulation include party formation, structure, representation, party election, filing submission to the Election Commission and so on. Article 269 of the constitution requires that the political party structure should be democratically organised and inner party democracy be instituted and exercised.
Democratic election According to the constitutional provision, the party statute should provide for democratic election of the office-bearers at federal, provincial and local levels. In case election of the office bearers to renew their term could not be held every five years due to unusual and difficult circumstances, an extension of six-month could be allowed. But this needs to be clearly provided and spelt out in the respective party statue. This constitutional requirement has created compulsion for the Nepali Congress to hold party convention during the upcoming month since it has already overspent the constitutionally mandated period for the election of the party office bearers. Many senior party leaders have emphasised on the need to hold party congress in time lest the Election Commission censure it for failing to comply with the constitutional provision. Needless to say, like other major political parties, Nepali Congress is also riddled with factional bickering. There has been a full blown critical dissidence in the party. The incumbent party leadership has been blamed for the weakening the vital of the organisation. But the party president Sher Bahadur Deuba and his adherents have countered it. They maintain that it was not the fault of the single leader like Deuba to weaken and sap the energy of the party. Though the party's dip in popularity might have been contributed by several factors, the immediate cause for the poor show of the party in the last polls had been caused due to the combined strength of the Left Alliance that held extensively entrenched organisational base buttressed by committed party cadres and functionaries throughout the country. When CPN (UML) had combined with the Maoist Centre pledging to go for party integration and unification almost four years ago, cadres and functionaries had closed their ranks to campaign in favour of the Left alliance candidates. Given the shabby organisational shape of the Nepali Congress with its emphasis on the mass base, the poor electoral outcome in the election for the party held four years ago was very much obvious and natural. Though the mass based parties like Nepali Congress have their own advantages due to their wider, cross-sectional and cross- territorial appeal, the cadre-based communist parties enjoy the added leverage in terms of functionary mobilisation. They can use and mobilise their functionaries aggressively to pursue the single agenda to win the elections. The mass appeal is always based on persuasive values, norms and principles whereas the cadres are tied together by doctrines, commitment and discipline. However, the leftist alliance has been in tatters now. The CPN-UML and Maoist Center have been vertically split into two separate entities as the court nullified their merger consigning them into status quo ante position. Despite fragmentation and intraparty leadership tussle within the ruling UML, it still commands stronger organisational network and base. And it can muster strength to face any electoral challenge to be presented by the opponents including Nepali Congress. At present, Nepali Congress faces two major challenges namely to convene the party congress and at the same time face the competitive national elections which may be held soon. It is an onerous and taxing from organisational and mobilisation point of view. Nepali Congress, therefore, needs to shore up its organisational base, image and strength. It should intensify campaign for new political recruitment and bolster esteem and confidence of the party workers to meet the new challenges. Nepali Congress should, therefore, opt to scout for new committed and energetic leadership that can fire off the zeal of party workers and ordinary people. Many senior leaders of the party have called for the change of leadership in the upcoming convention with a view to facelift the organisation for making it more vigorous competitive and combative in the days to come.
New generation leadership In fact, the last general convention of NC had also witnessed an assertive presence of the new generation of leadership. But they were not able to weaken the hold of the well-entrenched conventional leadership. In fact, the NC youth leadership should prepare and assert oneself to take over the mantle of responsibility. This is the need of the time in view of the fact that the conventional leadership has been tested time and again. NC needs to build its organisational base in all the provinces and localities of the country to retain and expand its size, shape and stature as the credible national party. Since the base and structure of the party has been dwindled especially due to inaction to mobilise and organise the party functionaries around the policies and principles, the focus at present should, lay on how to connect the party to the grassroots. This can make the party robust and competitive in the upcoming electoral competition.
(The author is presently associated with Policy Research Institute (PRI) as a senior research fellow. email@example.com)