Sunday, May 22, 2011

Nepali Congress: Is It For Real?

The general response to the Nepali Congress’ latest public campaigns seems to have exceeded the leadership’s wildest expectations. Although no one had quite ventured to write the party’s epitaph, its progressive emaciation was apparent. The post-Girija Prasad Koirala leadership was both dreary and divided.
The party’s resurgence – if one can call it that – appears to have energized the Indians as well. The venerable Times of India’s Nepal watcher, Indrani Bagchi, in a recent story credited Trinamool Congress’ Mamata Banerjee’s massive electoral success in West Bengal against the long-ruling left alliance with giving a new life to the Nepali Congress.
In fairness, the TOI correspondent is less parochial than the story’s headline makes it sound. The writer attributes the Nepali Congress’ success to the diminution of public fear of the Maoists and the dismal performance of Prime Minister Jhal Nath Khanal’s government. With each of the communist partners mired in deep internal rifts, it would be difficult to expect the government to perform any better. But, Maila Baje feels, our comrades surely know that such arguments, regardless of their validity, cannot win the argument.
Still, there is a place in the TOI story where Nepalis and the Nepali Congress must watch for. The party was on the verge of a rupture on the eve of Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna’s visit. “Giving the example of the Indian Congress party and how it had repositioned itself in Indian politics, Krishna reportedly told the NC leaders that they ran the risk of being their own
worst enemy.”
Suddenly things patched up in the party, long delayed appointments/nominations were formalized, and voluble leaders restrained themselves to the point where factionalism saw little, if any, place in the latest rallies. Sher Bahadur Deuba, the chief dissident, at one point even half-gyrated to the music amid the unfolding cultural tapestry.
The sense of rejuvenation reached a level where Nepali Congress cadres in Gorkha ended up thrashing six local activists of UCPN (Maoists).
To be sure, the Nepali Congress has seized the initiative by submitted a 10-point charter of demands to the UML-Maoist government, complete with an ultimatum. Unless the demands were fulfilled, the party insists, it would oppose the extension of the Constituent Assembly on May 28. In the end, the spirit of consensus will probably prevail in the Nepali Congress and the assembly will get a new lease of life.
How long after that can the personality-based rifts in the Nepali Congress be papered over? Power, after all, has always had a way of intoxicating the party to the point of implosion. Perhaps in the interest of its own well-being, the party should commit itself to staying out of the government for a while longer.