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‘Yes, I am in contention for Congress leadership’

prakashman

Prakash Man Singh is General Secretary of Nepali Congress. He was Deputy Prime Minister in the Sushil Koirala Cabinet, the predecessor of the KP Oli government, and is considered a member of the party’s ‘establishment’ faction. Singh, who is the son of late NC leader and People’s Movement Commander Ganesh Man Singh, talked to Onlinekhabar about the party’s upcoming general convention. Translated excerpts:

The party’s general convention is around the corner. Who is the ‘establishment’s’ leader ?

In my opinion, there are many leaders. Ramchandra dai, Sitaula ji, and even I have my own specialties. All three of us have established ourselves within the party. We’ll have to see who gets elected this time. Party supporters want us to form a strong team.

Who is going to be the ‘establishment’s’ candidate for the party presidency?

We are still discussing this.

Isn’t it late already?

This is the party’s general convention. I have always said that because this is a party convention, everyone knows everyone. That is why who is going to be the candidate will be decided only at the final hour. This is politics, and we need to take many things into consideration. We will make the name of our candidate public at the appropriate time.

You are saying that you are in contention, but you are not ready to announce your candidacy, is that so? 

Yes, I am in contention for party presidency. I have had a long innings within the party. I was elected general secretary of the party at the 12th convention. When I was elected central committee member, I got the third-most number of votes. That gives some measure of my popularity.

But when you said you were also in contention, there were many, who did not believe you. There were some, who said what you wanted was to use this as a bargaining chip.

(Laughs) What people think is there. In terms of age, Ramchandraji is senior to me. Maybe that is why they said so. What I want to say is that faces also matter when it comes to the race for presidency. I have been saying: Let’s find the suitable candidates for president, general secretary, treasurer and central committee members.

Are you saying you are ahead of other ‘popular faces’? 

Yes, exactly. After becoming general secretary, I have been to all districts, except for Darchula. I have met party cadres and local people and interacted with them. Even when I was Deputy Prime Minister, I was able to take everyone along.

These days, there is a demand that the party leadership be changed. Soon we will have elections at all levels, so we need to send a message that we have changed. That is why I said my candidacy would make it easier for the party to do so.

Let’s assume that you become the establishment’s candidate. Ramchandra Paudel is unlikely to accept vice-president ‘s post. Then there are leaders like Krishna Sitaula and Gagan Thapa. What is your offer for them?

 My offer is this: We can discuss the placements.

Isn’t it time that you came up with a more concrete offer?

No, what a good leader does is give the right people the right opportunity at the right time. That is why I am talking to everyone, and will decide who can be placed where. We are still discussing. It is still early.

There is a saying that’s making rounds within the Congress party these days. When you quit then Deuba’s rival Congress party, to join Koirala’s party, Koirala gave you easy access because he wanted to pass the baton to you. But you are using the same baton to hit the party establishment.  

(Laughs) Those who are saying that have not understood the party. There were may people, who could have received the baton. But why did Sushilji choose me? Ok, he wanted me on his side so that he could win. When he became Prime Minister, I was appointed his deputy. The important thing here is that he sent me to important meetings. That is why those who are saying that (what you were referring to earlier) don’t understand the ground reality of the party.

 

Do you think Sushil Koirala had already passed on the baton to you?

I have already said that who will carry the legacy forward depends on activities of the person, who wants to do that. If Koirala was not happy with me, why would he make me his deputy?

I think I learnt politics the hard way. I have spent time in jail, and persevered even in the face of adversities.

prakashman (2)

So you believe in legacy?

‘Legacy politics’ is not just there in South Asia, it is even there in the US. Take, for example, the Bush and Clinton families. No one takes notice when a doctor’s son becomes doctor, but people raise their eyebrows when a politician’s son becomes a politician. Entering politics is one thing, but staying in politics is a completely different ball game. Brand name does not guarantee success. You need to go to the people, and convince them.

Many people say it’s now time for the party to keep its house in order. Is it not possible for you to take up the role your father played when he was there? He didn’t go after any formal position in the party.

These days, if you do not take up opportunities on offer, people think that you were not worthy. I have announced that I am in contention for the party leadership because I have qualifications to do that, and I am doing it at the right time. It is only natural.

Sushil Koirala always used to say that the party has not been able to institutionalise itself. I believe that if I become the party’s number one man, I can take steps towards institutionalising the party.

In the end, you have said you are in contention, but if the establishment fields another candidate what will you do?

 It will all depend on the situation. I believe in healthy competition. I have said we should field an effective team. Even if I don’t get to lead the team, I could back it if it’ss an effective team.

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