Squandered Opportunity for The Nepali Congress Party

Internal bickering within the Nepali Congress party threatens to leave the country rudderless. Because the three main leaders of the party cannot agree which of them should be the party’s candidate to head the next government, they are also unable to come to unified decisions about the country’s grave political issues. (See)

The leaders’ lust for the prime minister’s chair is bad for Nepal, and it is also going to cost the party dearly in the future. Any opportunity for the party to return to their traditional role as the country’s largest and most powerful political force is evaporating rapidly.

There really was an opportunity. The Congress party has long been seen as a party of old men, but several of the old guard have passed away. Some women and younger men have become important, rising figures.

Congress also has been accused of major corruption each time they controlled the government. Recently several of the party’s ministers from earlier governments have been convicted and imprisoned. The party could have taken a stand against corruption by applauding the convictions. Or they could have at least remained silent. But after party boss Khum Bahadur Khadka was jailed last month, sources said that the party would appeal the decision.

After the predictable public backlash, the idea of an appeal seems dead, and with it a chance for Congress to rise above their reputation as the party of corruption. Khadka spends his days in jail meeting with supporters and well-wishers according to local media reports.

The Nepali Congress had earned respect over the last 18 months for their principled opposition to the Maoists. The three party factions’ adamant and unified position on completing the retirement and integration of the Maoist army before they would join any coalition government cost them ministerial berths. It also gained them some respect for standing on principle.

Now the squabbling over the PM’s seat is robbing the Grand Old Party (yes, they use that appellation) of much of that newly won respect. And it prevents the party from negotiating effectively with the UML, Maoists and the southern block on critical constitutional issues.

It’s a lose-lose situation, for the party and the nation.

John Child is The NewsBlaze Nepal Correspondent, a journalist in Kathmandu who writes about goings-on in and around Nepal and her neighbors.