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Will Awareness Campaign Revamp Nepali Congress?

NC is still facing factional conflict and other problems, delaying the formation of various departments. The party has been bogged down owing the bitter rivalry between the camps of president Sher Bahadur Deuba and senior leader Ram Chandra Paudel.

Ram Prasad Dahal, KATHMANDU: Brushing aside intense factionalism and bickering, main opposition Nepali Congress (NC) has launched a month-long nationwide Jagaran Abhiyan (awareness campaign) to inform people about the government’s ‘wrongdoings’ and revamp party organisation. The NC had suffered the worst defeat in the three-tier elections in 2017 and became the weak opposition party in the parliament. The awareness drive kicked off amid criticism that the NC failed to play the role of effective opposition. In the first phase, the party is running campaign from May 8 to June 9 in all 77 districts. Each member of the party Central Working Committee has been assigned districts to oversee it.

“The awareness has gained momentum in the first phase despite some shortcomings that occurred in some districts,” NC spokesperson Bishwo Prakash Sharma said. The factional infighting marred inaugural function in Sindhupalchowk, leaving one worker injured.
Sharma said the campaign entitled ‘Himal Pahad Terai Madhes Nepali Congress Rastriya Jagaran Abhiyaan’ had mobilised the party organisation apparatuses on the basis of personal capacity.

Unity mission
It is also an occasion for the party workers to press their leadership to forge unity, bolster its position in the House and raise various national issues and agenda. The party has clobbered the government over the scams related to the purchase of wide body aircraft and government’s land at Baluwatar. The grand old party is under fire for not holding the general convention of the party’s sister organisations. The workers have suggested holding party’s general convention at the earliest. Sharma said the campaign was for unleashing discourse about weakness of the party itself and the government. The cadres are expected to put forth their views on the amended statute of the party.
The ruling Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) leaders are also closely watching the opposition’s campaign. “Organising such a political drive is positive but its agendas are not clear. It can be meaningful if it will be able to energise the party organisation,” said CPN central member Maheshwor Dahal. But the NC said its main objective was to make the people aware about current political situation.
“It does not seek to reach a conclusion as happened in the previous movement for the establishment of republic system. This time we changed its traditional style of conducting meetings. We have discouraged leaders from making long speeches and wearing garland and khada,” said Sharma.

However, CPN leader Dahal warned that the NC could itself be exposed if it attempted to dig the corruption scandals because the latter was responsible for many scams that rocked the nation in the past when it was in power.
Analysts see the NC’s bid with positive note. “This kind of awareness campaign should be organised from time to time,” said political analyst Shree Krishna Anirudra Gautam, adding that the party should have structures as per the federal system to make the party functional but does not have such mechanisms at the lower level.

Asked about the stated objective of the campaign to expose the government’s wrongdoing, Gautam said that it criticised the government based on the public issues published in the media outlets. Now the media are seen as anti-government wing, he said. The second and third phase of programmes will be organised in federal election constituencies and local levels respectively.

NC spokesperson informed that the campaign would inform NC members and well-wishers about the amended party statute, re-energise all NC members and units, inform the people about achievements under NC leadership and make people aware of corruption scandals and wrong policies of the government.

Listening to the people’s grievances, garnering support for the constitution amendment to address the demands of the people in Terai-Madhes, informing the people about the government’s immature diplomacy, putting pressure on all tiers of government to work as per their commitment, cautioning the government over its moves to curtail press freedom and freedom of expression and expanding party membership and imparting training to workers are other agenda of the campaign.

Factional conflict
NC is still facing factional conflict and other problems, delaying the formation of various departments. The party has been bogged down owing the bitter rivalry between the camps of president Sher Bahadur Deuba and senior leader Ram Chandra Paudel. After the elections deflated in the election, the blame game has heightened. The party leaders have become reactive to the acts and performance of the government.

Dissidents within the party have criticised the leadership for weakening it. The NC disciplinary committee instructed leaders and workers to refrain themselves from blame game. It has also threatened to take disciplinary action against anyone involved in disparaging leaders. The campaign is taking place without sorting out internal disputes, with its 14th general convention approaching. Reaching out to citizens and holding dialogue between the party and people are positive step towards boosting the organisation.

(Dahal is a TRN journalist)

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