Gagan Thapa is a general secretary candidate of the Nepali Congress during the 13th General Convention that kicked off in the Capital on Thursday. He claims that youth has to be in the leadership for transforming the party and ending deep rooted factionalism. He is the only candidate who represents the youth among the 10 aspirants of Office Bearer positions in the country’s oldest and largest political party. In this backdrop, Binod Ghimire caught up with Thapa to discuss different facets of the general convention. Excerpts:
What are your priorities as a general secretary candidate?
My candidacy is to change the present political culture of the Nepali Congress, to boost people’s faith in the party and to build a strong foundation for implementing the newly promulgated constitution. More than that, my candidacy is to bring about a transformation in our party both in its structure and policy. It’s sure that the NC in its present form cannot lead the aspirations of the people in the federal republic Nepal. Currently, the NC is a party of limited cadres and I am on the field to make it the party of the people, which is not possible from the old leadership.
You are in alliance with a person who represents the same old leadership who has worked as the party’s general secretary (Krishna Prasad Sitaula). Is it possible to attain your goals under his leadership?
As he (Krishna Sitaula) has been a crucial member in the bringing Maoists into mainstream politics and promulgating the new constitution, his experience will definitely help to attain the aforementioned objectives. But being in one panel does not mean that we share common ideology and goal. There are issues on which we have different views. Every time I visit places to meet party cadres there is the same complaint that our party could not function properly and it needs transformation. What I believe is the issue of party transformation is purely an agenda of my generation and only people like me can execute that. I am sure those who call for transformation will not repeat their past mistake by electing the same old batch.
There was a group of youth leaders under you lobbying for a common agenda of increasing youth representation in leadership. But it did not remain when it came to fighting the election. Don’t you think there is a problem within your generation as well?
We never said we would support a particular leader as the president or the general secretary. We were together in an agenda which I expect my friends have not given up. I don’t see any policy and vision of the leaders who aspire for the top positions. At least I have that. We are the cadres of the same party and will remain so irrespective of whom we vote for.
Around 40 percent of the representatives are new faces. What does it signify?
Factionalism is deep rooted in our party from bottom to the top. Our structure is so rigid that it is not possible for one to get elected even as a convention representative without getting associated with one of the factions. So the rise in youth’s representation does not mean that they vote freely. I am pretty sure, after having interactions, that a large section of the representatives are willing to vote for me. But it’s hard to say how many of them dare to translate their will into vote. It is not the mistake of the representatives but of the election system we have developed. I am sure everyone wants to change the present system which only promotes factionalism.
Such systems are changed through policies. But the present scenario shows the representatives have no interest in discussing the policy as most of them are seen outside the hall at a time when policy discussion is going on inside. Don’t their will and act contradict?
No. Who would want to participate in a policy discussion which is conducted keeping 3,200 representatives in a hall with a mandate that it has to be endorsed within 12 hours. Does the present way of policy discussion ensure that voice of every representative is heard? Therefore, the election of the leadership and policy discussion should be separate. What I firmly believe is the policy should be presented by the new Central Working Committee and endorsed by the Mahasamiti. There is a flaw in the practice of presenting the policy by the outgoing CWC.
Where do you place yourself among the three general secretary candidates?
Two of my competitors represent the traditional faction within the NC which has made my job very tough. Had there not been such strong factionalism within the party, my victory this time around would never have been so challenging. Despite all these challenges I am ahead of all. But as I said earlier victory will depend on the representatives’ courage to translate their will into vote.
You are competing with your father-in-law for the same post. How does it feel?
I am under tremendous pressure. This is among the strongest relations for a married person. It’s like fighting your own father. Therefore, I feel intense pressure and I’m sure he has the same feeling. But we are fighting our own battles. He is doing his job and I am doing mine. There are such times when you are in politics and you have to face that. Victory and defeat aside, had I not fielded my candidacy for the post, I would have been taken as the most compromising person. It’s a responsibility presented to me by the circumstances and I am taking it despite pressure.