After two months of lobbying and sulking, Girija Prasad Koirala has finally succeeded in making his daughter Sujata the deputy prime minister. Given her unpopularity with the public as well as within the NC, it's no surprise the backlash has been so intense.
Koirala has squandered the merit he earned in 2006 in leading the country back to democracy by pushing his daughter as his political successor. He has demonstrated his lack of commitment to democracy, and nowhere is the anger as palpable as within his own party.
NC leaders are enraged and the UML is miffed. There is finger pointing between the political parties. Critics blame the weak government for not being able to stand up to Girija. The public, on the other hand, is so apathetic that the reaction has been a dismissive: "So what else is new?" As always everything will be figured out, forgiven and forgotten. The public understands that there will be protests now, but they will soon die down, and those protesting will be seen hobnobbing with Sujata about town.
Sujata Koirala has no political charisma, skill, guile or experience. She has little support within her party and the only person rooting for her is her father. When her party summoned her for questioning, she came with slogan-shouting hired goons. But is Girija the only one responsible for the mess in the NC? How about the other so-called leaders?
The NC leadership is quick to say that the party is changing with the times and that the leadership is going through a transition. They have protested in the past against Girija's efforts to anoint his daughter as his successor. But this particular move by the party president goes to show just how weak the NC leadership is and how beholden they are to the old man.
The NC leadership gossips behind Koirala's back about him with the leaders of other parties. They say the old man is 'losing it' or has become 'senile' and yet they have been unable to come up with alternative leadership. They have failed miserably in asserting their disapproval and discontent, in convincing Girija that his decision was a bad call, and in preventing him from making such a big decision unanimously. One has to wonder how one of the most unpopular leaders in Nepal has so much clout within his own party.
Seeing Koirala's face on the evening news has proved to the Nepali people that although we may have come a long way in the last few years few things in Nepal have really changed. Quipped one disenchanted NC member: "The prime minister and deputy prime minister were both unelected. They make a good team."
For the NC leaders, however, this is a good time to consider whether the party is actually going through the transition they claim is underway. They must understand that unless change can come from the top party leadership there will always be bad decisions. Unless young leaders are groomed, older leaders will always push their children as successors.
To come out in the media and badmouth is easy. This is a collective bad judgment call and putting the blame on someone else just makes the leadership look naive and immature. This is the time to be assertive about issues that really matter. The party's reputation and position is at stake if it wants to present itself to the people as a real alternative to the Maoists.
General elections may be far away but if the party wants to rebuild its image the leaders need to undo this mistake and remake the party.