Following its worst electoral defeat in its nearly seven-decade-long history there must be reckoning in Nepali Congress. When all the results come out, Party President Sher Bahadur Deuba must take personal responsibility and resign. The new low that Congress has descended to, we believe, is the perfect place from which to start its revival, by giving party command to a new generation of leaders. If the party wants to revive its electoral fortunes, nothing less will do.
The current crop of top leaders in Nepali Congress, many of whom have won elections this time, can serve as guardians to the young Turks. It was pathetic to see the oldest and the biggest political party in the country go into such important elections with seemingly no agenda of its own. At the hustings Deuba had nothing more to say than that his chief opponent, the new left alliance, was intent on establishing a ‘communist dictatorship’. This focus on the opponent’s weakness rather than one’s own strength clearly didn’t go down well with voters.
Faced with a formidable foe like KP Oli, an astute electoral operative and a skilled orator, Deuba’s deficiencies as a leader were put in sharp relief. It may sound a little uncharitable but it is hard not to arrive at the conclusion that Deuba lost the elections for Congress.
Deuba will be credited for pushing ahead with the provincial and federal elections even though even his own party colleagues were warning him against it in light of the recent left coalition. Deuba seemed committed to wash away the old stain that had stuck to him after his repeated failures to hold elections during his previous terms as prime minister. Kudos to him for daring to do the right thing.
But he could easily squander this legacy if he now looks to cling on, by hook or by crook. In any case, following his party’s shameful showing in recent elections, he is unlikely to continue as Congress leader for long. There are already voices within Congress calling for an emergency general convention to choose new leadership. Deuba would do well to bow out on his own. And so would other leaders of his generation, who can offer very little to revive the sinking fortunes of their party, but who can do a lot to further tarnish the image of Nepali Congress. People just don’t trust them anymore.
In an election there has to be a winner and there has to be a loser. Congress had come out on top in the last nationwide election and by the looks of things it will be UML this time. Yet it is sad to see a party of NC’s impeccable democratic credentials implode like this. The country needs a strong Congress, whether it is leading the government or whether it is in the opposition.
There has over the years been no better defender of liberal values. The current leadership—old, vision-less and out of tune with most voters—does not do justice to the image of the party of BP, Ganeshman and GP Koirala. Deuba and Congress top brass have played their parts in the party and in national politics. Now is a time to make a graceful exit.