When B.P Koirala died in July 1982, Nepali Congress was the largest opposition party in Nepali politics with the communist factions nowhere to be seen. However, at the death of Nepali Congress leader Sushil Koirala, Nepal is overwhelmingly under the communist leaders.
Communist Party of Nepal Unified Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML) BidhyaBhandari is the second president of new Republic, CPN-UML leader K.P. Sharma Oli is prime minister and United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-Maoist) young rebel as chairman of Legislature Parliament and another UCPN-Maoist commander Nanda Kishore Pun is a vice president of Nepal.
Out of four deputy prime ministers, three are communist leaders and almost half of Nepal’s Legislature Parliament comprise of communists. Monarchy is history now with the promulgation of new constitution under the leadership of late Koirala. However, Nepali Congress is sharing powers with communist factions with vehement opposition and rejection from the large section of population from southern plains.
Although late Sushil Koirala has nothing to do with the currentideological turmoil as it was his mentor late Girija Prasad Koirala who exchanged the party’s ideology for the sake of power.
As the political values and ideology are badly shaken in Nepali Congress over the last one decade, the party is now no more than a bunch of people who care much for money and power than any political ideology.
In recently held district level conventions, many old party ideologues and stalwarts were wiped out by the persons who don’t care much about ideology of liberal democracy championed by Nepali Congress for decades.
In the words of ideologue and founder of Nepali Congress B.P. Koirala, Nepali Congress will turn into a chaotic mass once it lost its ideology of national reconciliation based on nationalism, democracy and socialism.
End of the Koirala dynasty
It may also end the Koirala dynasty that controlled the Nepali Congress party for most of the past six decades and produced four Prime Ministers.
Since its establishment in 2004 B.S, Nepali Congress is heading to hold its general convention without representation of strong and well accepted members from B.P. Koirala and his family.
As Nepali Congress President and former Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, 78, passed away, there is no one in Koirala family to challenge for succession. Although Sujata Koirala, daughter of Girija Prasad Koirala, Dr. Shashanka Koirala, son of late B.P Koirala and Dr. Shekhar Koirala, newphew of B.P Koirala are in the Legislature Parliament and central committee of Nepali Congress, they are yet to have a nation-wide acceptance unlike the currentcontenders, former prime minister SherBahadurDeuba and leader Ram Chandra Paudel.
B.P. Koiralais remembered by people not because he wasa Koirala but for his ideology. Although former prime ministers late Girija Prasad Koirala and late Sushil Koirala were groomed under B.P leadership, they did not care much aboutthe ideological part.
Out of three Koiralas, who are in the political front, none of them carries the ethos of B.P. Koirala and values adhered to by him. Three young Koiralashave grown up in the politics of two elder Koiralas.
Although he is in the other camp, former prime minister SherBahadurDeuba is the remaining leader in Nepali Congress who was somewhere close to the values of late B.P. Koirala.
As it is said by Machiavelli, politics is a game of impossible, so-called Koirala’s followers are backing Ram Chandra Poudel, who is neither B.P's true follower nor a follower of any Koirala clan at the cost of the person who was at least close to B.P Koirala.
As the contest of the party president draws closer, party workers are actively getting involved in the party’s convention, the challenges for the new leadership is how to bring the party back on ideologically right track with its own identity of liberal Democratic Party.
Who is Sushil Koirala?
Koirala was born to Bodh Prasad and Kumidini Devi on 3 February 1938 in Biratnagar of Morang. Kumidini Devi was a sister of BP Koirala and Girija Prasad Koirala’s mother.He later migrated to Nepalgunj of Banke, along with his parents.
He never got married and used to say he was married to democracy. He was to go to the USA to train as an actor 55 years ago,but gave up the idea due to royal takeover by then king Mahendra overthrowing the BP Koirala-led democratic government.
Late Koirala expressed a desire to contest NC presidential election in the upcoming general convention of the partya few days before his death.In the last public function that he addressed 22 days ago in Bhaktapur, he said, “Friends blame me for not being able to speak clearly and characterize me as a weak and an ailing person.However, I am fit and fine, as I have conquered cancer. I have to do more for the party and the country and I am capable of that.”
Known for his personal simplicity and humanly behavior, late Koirala does have a lot of followers in the party and outside. However, late Koirala was criticized for creating a coterie within the party.
Although late Koirala held junior posts, he was powerful all the time as he was regarded as eye and ear of late Girija Prasad Koirala. He held powerful posts in the NC since he became acting president of the party in September 2005. Koirala became party president in August 2010.
Koirala was elected prime minister in February 2014 and remained in the post till October 2015.
Like BP Koirala and Girija Prasad Koirala, Sushil Koirala also died while he was the party president. Sushil Koirala was the fourth person from the Koirala family, considered the first family of Nepali politics, to have headed the party and governments in the past 70 years.
Except for stints by Subarna Shamsher Rana and Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, the Koiralas – brothers Bisheshwar Prasad, Matrika Prasad and Girija Prasad and their cousin Sushil – have been at the helm of the party since its inception in 1946.
With his demise, Nepal’s oldest party will be without a Koirala in control after two decades. Electing a new leader and charting its future course won’t be easy for the party.
With late Koirala out of the fray, the battle for the leadership will be fought between senior leaders Sher Bahadur Debua and Ram Chandra Poudel.
Deuba is in Lead
Although the elections are coming up, former prime minister SherBahadurDeuba has a clear lead over his challenger Ram Chandra Poudel. Having been in the leadership for almost two decades and contesting the elections in the past four general conventions, Deuba has clearly projected himself for the leadership level with good support throughout the country.
Although Ram Chandra Poudel is also in the leadership race over the last two decades along with Deuba, he does not have as wide a support base and appealas that of former Prime Minister Deuba.
Challenges before Deuba is how he can accommodate all the aspirants including those from Koiralaclan, who can still defect to him. Personally flexible and adaptive, Deuba can change the situation to become a tall leader in the country.
As the current coalition government led by K.P.Sharma Oli is losing his credibility, Nepali Congress will come to challenge the legitimacy of the government after the convention.
“I cannot believe in family legacy but it is the personal capacity and ability which put all Koirala’s in leadership,” said Dr. Shekhar Koirala.
His death left the future leadership of the Nepali Congress, which is currently in the opposition, uncertain as it prepares for a general convention in March.
Koirala spent 16 years in political exile in India after King Mahendra expelled all anti-monarchy protesters in 1960. He was jailed for six years in India and Nepal after he and fellow party members hijacked a plane flying from Biratnagar to Kathmandu and forced it to land in India.
Nepal, home to 28 million people, has been in turmoil since the new Constitution was adopted in September as some ethnic groups often launched deadly protests against the charter saying it failed to give them a greater role in government.
As Koirala is no more, the challenges before two contenders Deuba and Poudel is not only to bring the party on the track but also to end the uprising in Madhesh accommodating their aspirations and views. The current political turmoil created following the promulgation of new constitution –which is not also at par with the ideological spirit of Nepali Congress, will definitely create another round of uncertainty.
Revival of Nepali Congress' own ideological glory and bringing it back to the right of its centrist and liberal democratic track is a major challenge before Nepali Congress.