Nepali Congress, the party that has led every major political change in the country in the past seven decades, now appears to be a shell of its former self. Perhaps for the first time in the party’s history, going into its General Convention, there has been zero debate on its future ideological course or the country’s burning issues. All the debates rather seem centered on which of the many candidates vying for leadership, largely based on their ability to dispense patronage, will prevail. Things couldn’t be more dispiriting.
Right now, the country is mired in some bitter ideological questions, regarding the future of its federal and republican structure, the judiciary’s independence, a long-running pandemic that is still not under control, a sinking economy and growing inequality—and all that the party traditionally at the vanguard of the Nepali democratic process is concerned about is choosing a new leader. That would not be such a bad thing if the top NC leaders were contesting based on their ideological differences and differing visions for the party and the country. No, all they seem concerned about is getting elected in any which way possible.
Whosoever becomes the next Nepali Congress head, he—and it will be a ‘he’—will fail to inspire broader confidence. All the candidates in the fray are old faces, and people, more than anything else, would like to see a fresh face at the top. Also, the weakening of the political parties across the board could translate into another fractured mandate in the next set of elections, with all its attendant problems.
The election of Rajendra Lingden as the RPP chief is, in this way, a breath of fresh air, for he is both a new generation leader and has a solid ideological footing. Yet he leads a political party that wants to take the country back decades by reviving monarchy and Hindu state. It is ironic that the RPP should be teaching our more mature democratic parties the way to elect a new leader.