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Comeback Calling for Congress

BY P. KHAREL
pkharel1Dislodged from power with the prospect of having to cool its heels in the opposition benches for the next five years, if not necessarily more, Nepali Congress faces trying times. It needs to be strengthened while ensuring a measure of resilience to confront and cope with the new conditions.  The local polls had already indicated NC’s status with the voters. For the naïve doubting ones, the subsequent provincial and general election results have served a purpose that would otherwise have been indecently buried under the leadership’s carpet.
For the poll outcome has shaken the foundations of the NC structure, with dissenting voices surfacing in a manner not seen previously. Sher Bahadur Deuba has lost the standing he earlier had in the party rank and file. Dissolute dissidents have summoned their courage at long last to display defiance against him.
Confidence is a state of mind while conviction is conscientious commitment to a cause. NC seems to have been so distraught by the convincing electoral defeat that it lost sense of balance, as indicated by the reckless manner in which the NC chief took hasty and rash decisions that no outgoing democratic government would dare to. The decisions were to favour NC’s lot and create difficulties for the incoming team. All this was done during the Deuba government’s dying days, when the writing on the wall was loud and clear: The Left Alliance had won a landslide majority.
DESPONDENCY: Nepal’s oldest existing party should learn to play the role of a dignified but determined, alert and responsible opposition. It need not delude itself too much on the hope that the “unnatural” Left alliance to break up “soon”. If and when the new ruling team indeed does split, the main opposition could conclude it as a combination of inherent internal contradictions. But to bank upon such wishes would only aggravate the despondency that grips NC with the defeat inflicted in the November-December 2017 provincial-parliamentary polls.
Deuba designed his own downfall not once or twice but four times when he donned the mantle of premier. All his stints in office ended in a whimper. NC leaders can vainly try wearing a wry smile over the proportionate representation seats it collected to declare it was not far behind the Left Alliance in obtaining popular votes. The Left Alliance obtained more than what the NC mustered by way of two-thirds majority back in 1959.
As his astrologer had predicted him to don the prime minister’s hat seven times, the NC boss relied on such predictions while the Left alliance relied on voters. Deuba tied his organisation’s electoral fate to his personal luck.
Earlier, those who criticised Deuba were attacked for being “biased”. The 2017 elections vindicated NC critics no end. “Youth leader” Gagan Thapa tried and failed to bring his party chief to size but the challenge proved too big for him to swallow. His strategy did not gather momentum.
Impunity means going beyond the reach of reason. The never-ending intra-party bickering and inter-party squabbling for sheer power pits all promises in the back-burner as far as ruling parties are concerned.  Power is what they crave for. Seduced by the lure of power and restrained by fear of retaliation, party members lose their voice when it comes to commenting critically on the leadership. They lack vision. NC should gear up to reality and work for its revival and recovery. Bid to lock in personal loyalty of leaders is the chief cause of its staggering duplicity.
Only patience and fresh approach will work. NC has taken a hard fall following all three segments of local and general elections. Faulty choice of candidates and the resultant indifference on part of some of the key workers at the district level are believed to have made a major difference in the party’s contest with the Left Alliance.
LOT TO LEARN: Patience in abundant reserve is required as primary test. The first two years should be in raising the most pressing issues at the national level while at the local levels its members can be mobilised more intensely than in the recent years. The third year should be for assessing what should be done next. The fourth and election year should be for using all firepower in a convincing manner. Otherwise, NC will have to face being reduced to irrelevance as new parties come up and communists do better for “50 years” as Dahal outrageously claimed.
NC is the author of its debacle. One poll defeat in itself is no disaster. The fear is that the loss might have heralded the onset of its irrelevance; people might begin gauging its actual size and strength and worth in a way that might never enable the party to recover its heady days in the 1990s. It needs to probe and tap bravely and honestly new avenues for strengthening its long-term positions and save itself from being permanently marginalised. Deuba could save himself from such stigma as presiding over the grand old party’s ultimate decline.

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