The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Nepal leaders face call for change

Kathmandu, April 16: The demand for leadership change in the political parties in Nepal is gaining ground even as they organise themselves to challenge the monarchy.

The leaders who are being criticised openly for their past behaviour belong to the three largest parties: Girija Prasad Koirala, president of the Nepali Congress, Sher Bahadur Deuba, president of the Nepali Congress (Democratic), and Madhav Nepal, general secretary of the Communist Party (United Marxist Leninist).

Koirala is accused of preventing the emergence of a second-generation leadership outside his family, Deuba of being weak and compromising with the monarchy, and Madhav of breaking the ranks of the democratic movement and allowing his party to join a government nominated by the king.

Narayan Khadka of Nepali Congress (Democratic) is forthright in his criticism of the political party leaders in Nepal. 'Those who have led us over the last decade or so, have failed abysmally. Neither the party workers nor the people have any faith in these leaders. I hear these voices in the Nepali Congress led by Koirala. They are certainly very strong in my party and in the United Marxist Leninist,' he said.

He suggested that Koirala should 'play the role that Jayaprakash Narayan played during the Emergency in India ' rising above partisan lines to unite all the political parties for restoring democracy.'

As for Deuba, he felt: 'His leadership has proven to be very weak. He was unable to govern and did nothing to revitalise our party. Many now feel that he should step down to enable someone else to lead the party successfully against the king's regressive moves.'

Pradeep Gayewali of the CPN (UML) was equally critical of the political leadership: 'The political parties should accept that they were unable to address the concerns of the people in the last 14 years. To that extent there was a leadership failure across the board ' from the Nepali Congress to the UML.'

'Koirala is 82 years old and he was the Prime Minister for half the time we had democracy. Madhav has been our general secretary for the last 12 years. It was because of the mistakes made by this political leadership that the king gained,' Gayewali argued.

Koirala himself is coming around to the inevitability of leadership transition. 'Given my age, I have to hand over the party to a younger leadership,' he said even though he is believed to be pitching for a third term as the party president.

Will the Koirala family continue to play a dominant role in the affairs of the Nepali Congress even after him' 'Leadership is not a family tradition. What I want or do not want is immaterial. The people will decide the leadership issue. They will choose,' he argued. Many, however, suspect that he has been promoting his daughter and other family members in the party.

Nepali Congress leader Chakra Prasad Bastola, while refraining from any personal criticism of his party's leadership, felt the basic problem lay with the political parties not understanding the expectations of the people from democracy. 'The people wanted to see a difference between the Ranas or the Shahs holding the seat of administration at Singha Durbar and the democrats occupying the same seat of power. But what they found was a continuity of approach,' he claimed.

What this meant, according to Bastola, was that the political leadership was neither democratic in itself nor encouraged internal democracy in the party. 'There is a need for political parties to upgrade their thinking, change their internal functioning and re-examine the relationship between the party and the leadership and the party and the people. This is the new frontier of democracy in Nepal,' he argued.

Shankar Pokhrel of the UML said: 'In 1990, we got democracy but we did not debate sufficiently about what kind of democracy we needed. The democracy practised by our leaders was a failure. Democracy became an emotional issue with us but remained institutionally weak.'

The UML has already set in motion a process to review the party's performance in the last 14 years, especially its decision to join the last Deuba government nominated by the king.

The two factions of the Nepali Congress are yet to embark on such an exercise of introspection. But there can be no doubt about the fact that there is a realisation that mistakes have been made and that there must be accountability and a cost to pay for those responsible for the mistakes.

Email This Page