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Professor Huntington in a brilliant deduction once said, “Usually an organization is created to perform one particular function. When that function is no longer needed, the organization faces a major crisis. It either finds a new function or reconciles itself to a lingering death.” Nepali Congress, one of the oldest functioning political parties in Nepal with extra-parliamentary origin – whose only target was to eradicate centralization and overthrow the Panchayat system – as elections march closer and closer, is facing a similar ‘existential’ crisis. As consolidation of democracy still awaits an institutional force to gain power in Nepal, Congress has de-linked itself from the material socio-economic issues of the general masses. The directionless drift and constant thrive for power, alongside no realistic policies and programmes in the changing time and situation, has merely transformed the Congress into a slender elite cartel, which has also created a space for independent candidates and new populist, anti-politics parties. As such, Nepali Congress is losing its legitimacy, for it has failed to advance itself to a ‘policy seeking party’ or ‘ideological family’ from what it calls a ‘broad political platform’ – rationalized with its quest for vote maximization.  


Power or Ideology?

“Power, however, is a source of conflict and ideology, the source of unity,” remarked professor Hacchethu in his paper Nepali Politics. De-ideologization is rather an inevitable phase for all transforming parties, but it also means the emergence of power as the single most determining factor for the party. This can be conceived from the recent local elections, for the centre-directed electoral coalition suggests to what extent the Congress and the current party leadership tend to violate the norms of ideology and to what extent the thirst for power influences the realpolitik. 


In the context of such bewilderment within Congress, the popularity of the leadership has been in a constant decline, and a leadership crisis has emerged to devour the party from within. Even in the changed context after the reversal of Oli’s dilution of the legislative authority of the parliament by the court, nothing seems to be sacred to the current party supremos, and the trend of the decline of party stature continues; in fact, it has plummeted to the lowest ebb. The current party leadership has adopted all means i.e, horse-trading, defiance of the party’s constitution, paralysis of district committees and sister organizations, patrimonialism and favouritism, and so on to maintain the status quo and avert the emergence of pristine leadership. This consortium of nobles has but pronounced disdain for youths and activists, as they grapple with a passion to reduce the manifolds of organizations, to some affluent few. As a result of such age-based stratification within the party, the precipitation of antagonistic affairs between the stakeholders and the grassroot cadres is bold in the current local elections, as legends within the party struggled to sustain their legitimacy in their respective electorates.


What is to be done?

Among such things, the party shall be reminded of Lenin’s famous phrase: What is to be done? The leadership crisis, bewilderment, anarchy and knavery have been intrinsically annihilating the party has led to the emergence of antagonism within the party. It has conveyed the exclusive authority of the party to the elite cartel. In the present context, for congress to survive as a relevant force in Nepal, it needs to reevaluate its role in the state and society, the sources of authority, its purposes to serve the people and the mechanisms to form the party’s superstructure – that is, ideological and organizational clarity. Secondly, for it to become a vanguard organization for the consolidation of liberal values, it must manoeuvre the youth’s enthusiasm and idealism and institutionalize such mobilizations into realism. 


For this, there must be a dialectical set for the interplay of autonomous authority and institutional platforms for the youths. Manifestos of this arrangement are critical for two reasons: through autonomy, the youths perceive themselves as having a wider influence; and through institutional culture, the youths learn to function being bordered and boxed within a certain order. 


The rationality of “Youth Participation”

Youth politics, for youths, are at a liminal age in which their own aspirations are based on tradition and hopes of hitherto generation but with a certain flexibility in outlook which enlightens them to comprehend unprecedented possibilities, are politics of idealism. In other words, they tend to encompass politics of contentment, which envisages an upcoming society achieving all insufficiencies of the present; therefore, they tend to be more interested in ideological issues for ideologies offer ‘complete’ solutions. The politics of bargaining and adjustment does not gravitate to them, rather they prompt to radically oppose such compromises in order to advocate for complete social justice and equality. Therefore, both ideological clarity and leadership crises can be solved with more and more engagement of youth in decision-making.


Crisis in youth politics and a ‘quick fix’ 

Despite such importance of youth participation and decidedly self-aware youth, who have exposure to the market, modernity, international development and universal adult franchise, youths have grown impatient with the slow pace of change and have widespread lethargy towards formal politics and Nepali Congress. This is precisely for the exclusionary manoeuvre of the congress – that is – the participatory embargo – which has eroded the confidence of youth against the deep-rooted institutions and the political system they have inherited. As a result of this disengagement and disdain, youths are being gravitated towards political groups or insurgents who choose to operate outside formal politics, with their call for alternatives to the current political structure; for instance, the wave of independent candidates in the current local elections.


Besides autonomy and institutional space, which the party must dispense to the youths who are already in the party, Congress should brisk towards a new dynamic process in which youths can identify themselves with collective identity and collective action. Political action that provinces identity, as a sole privilege, moves with a risk of remaining naive, non-materialistic and utopian; but, the activism of identity that works in tandem with collective action is far more instrumental. It is because collective identity accounts for the dimension of political engagement, which is psychological and fosters a sense of communitas, and collective action constitutes the instrumental dimension of rational action, means and ends, and socio-political goals, which is behavioural. The decision that imposed age limits within the student wing of the Nepali Congress is a great exemplification of this dynamic process; however, this was a belated and mere accomplishment. 


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