Hobson’s choice for Nepali Congress: Continuity or change?

Nepal’s grand old political party Nepali Congress has a choice whether to continue the wrong trends or start a fresh beginning for a change. Its preference for the ministerial positions will give an indication to the future course of the party.

NL Today

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Kathmandu: For quite a long time now, the country’s grand old party has not been able to hold meaningful discourse on the most pressing issues of the country. 

The top leaders of the party are more focused on creating and managing the internal coterie instead of being focused on addressing people’s aspirations and service delivery. 

Nepali Congress leaders appear to be quite indifferent to the country’s genuine problems such as rising inflation and lack of service delivery–the factors which contributed to the rising frustration of people. 

And Congress leaders know it very well. 

Speaking at the Second National Economists’ Conference 2023 on March 10, Nepali Congress General Secretary Gagan Thapa said that he had never seen the current level of frustration among people before. “People are panicking. This is the first time I have ever noticed so many people panicking and feeling helpless at the same time before,” said Thapa.

Other Congress leaders are aware of the situation and the possible consequence of mass frustration.

The party’s leadership should realize the problem of rising mass frustration, said Nepali Congress leader Guru Raj Ghimire. “Shifting the blame is one thing. In reality, Nepali Congress as a party cannot put blame on others for the bad governance and poor service delivery,” he said. 

The leadership of the party should not forget that Nepali Congress has been in power time and again since 1990. The party has repeatedly reached power even after Nepal declared a federal republic following the second people’s movement in 2006, he said. 

“Why do the people, especially the youth, want to leave the country? Why are people frustrated with service delivery? Why is corruption on the rise? Nepali Congress has not been able to answer these questions,” he said. 

Given the usual standard and the growing opportunism among the top leaders of the party, it can be predicted that the party will not pick competent candidates as ministers this time too, he said. “Performance plays less role in the party to be preferred by the top leaders as the ministerial candidates. Instead, ones who can serve the interest of top leaders get the opportunities.”

According to him, the level of frustration among people will continue to grow if the party fails to correct the course. “No country can stand strong by selecting yes-men in powerful positions. It is a crucial time for the party to correct the course by sending competent candidates to the government.”

“It is our wish that the coalition government be successful in terms of service delivery, good governance, and ensuring measures to curb corruption. But we know it is merely a wish and it is not possible to materialize it until the current leadership or leadership with the same traits is in the party’s leadership,” he said. 

We need to change the way we pick ministers from the party. Those who have failed to perform when in power should not be provided opportunities again, he added. 

We cannot predict how people’s frustration will manifest if Nepali Congress continues prioritizing top leader’s interests over the public need and service delivery, Ghimire warned.

The coalition government led by Maoist Center, with Nepali Congress as a major coalition partner, is struggling to give full shape to the cabinet. As many aspirants are vying for ministerial berths, Nepali Congress is working hard to finalize the names for cabinet ministers.  Meanwhile, well-meaning leaders within the party are worried that the same old faces with poor track records of performance and delivery might be repeated this time as well.