The 14th general convention of the country’s oldest democratic party, Nepali Congress (NC), has finally concluded, with the final results of all 133 central committee positions out last Thursday, carrying a strong message for all other political parties, civil society activists and the general public. It has presented the NC’s next generation leaders with figures like Gagan Thapa and Bishwa Prakash Sharma as the party general secretaries and Dhanraj Gurung as the vice president.
The first meeting of newly elected Central Working Committee (CWC) was held on Saturday. Party president and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who chaired the meeting, has expressed his resolve to advance the party as per the spirit of unity, transformation and enthusiasm expressed during the convention. Newly elected general secretary Thapa has said that the first meeting internalised the commitment of building a stronger unity within the party in commemoration of the founding leaders of the party. The convention had the slogan of ‘Enthusiasm, Unity and Transformation.’ The NC navigated through a very successful exercise of core democratic principles in the national gathering.
Internal democracy The party has elected a new leadership at all levels of organisation from the wards to municipalities, Provincial Assembly constituencies, federal constituencies, districts and provinces and the federal level based on the new federal set-up. While evaluating the closely contested elections, it can be concluded that the convention has contributed to the party's internal democracy. If we have a comparative look at the recent national convention of the CPN-UML and ongoing national convention of CPN-Maoist Centre, it is clear that Nepali Congress is a truly liberal governing democratic party in Nepal and among those in South Asia.
NC has gone through a rigorous democratic process at different levels in a liberal and inclusive manner to pick the new leadership. Now it is high time for NC to win hearts and minds of the people with praiseworthy actions of the government and obtain a real competitive edge in upcoming local, provincial and federal elections. Despite the continuous criticisms of running mate Dr. Shekhar Koirala of his leadership, Prime Minister Deuba has proved that he has the solid support and leadership mettle to steer the grand old party with deserving command and control. Close aides of the reelected party president Deuba claim that overwhelming majority of the elected members are from Deuba’s panel, giving him a complete command of the party.
The NC convention has indicated a trend of emerging and inevitable transfer of party responsibility to the younger generation leaders. The resounding victory of Thapa and Sharma, who contested elections from the anti-establishment, is an affirmation that the party party rank and file is inclined to see a power shift towards the fourth generation aspirants with immense potential and calibre. The victory of Thapa and Sharma by securing 64.56 per cent and 42.37 per cent of votes respectively, out of the 4,282 ballots cast, proved that the electorate defied the whips of the factional divisions in favour of capable leaders for the future.
Apart from Thapa and Sharma, the narrow victory of popular fourth generation leader Dhan Raj Gurung to the position of party vice president and the win of eight new and relatively younger faces in the portfolio of Sahamahamantri (vice general secretary), a part of the highest decision making office-bearers, further elucidates new hopes and faiths in the new generation. Likewise, more than 60 per cent of the newly sworn central executives and central committee members are either fresh faces or have assumed new responsibilities.
New faces Now these new faces in party executives, including the two general secretaries, should fulfill the general expectations, helping to guide the party on the ideological path. Now a heavy burden rests on party chief Deuba to lend ears to them. In fact, he has already shown glimmers of hope in that direction by inviting Thapa to the all-party meeting immediately after Thapa’s win. The group of these young leaders forms the future pillar of the party. This is doubtlessly the generation that better understands the yearnings of the youths in Nepal, that form the majority of the voters in the upcoming local, provincial and federal level elections. This populace believes in the social welfare based political leadership and looks for pragmatic solutions to socio-economic problems of the common people.
The NC convention has provided an enormous space for the new generation leaders to work, coordinate and prove their competency. Now the onus rests upon them to persuade all the central committee leaders to duly conduct the internal election of Nepal Students Union, Nepal Tarun Dal and other sister wings of the party. Deuba has the fresh responsibility to raise the party to new height in popularity and organisational strength. For this, he should lead both the government and the party with accommodative and fair approach. Within the party, he should respect the sentiments of minority factions while in the government, he should address the grievances of the masses.
(A fourth year BALLB student at Nepal Law Campus, the author was a Sudur Paschim Provincial representative of NC’s 14th general convention.)