Dr, Shekhar Koirala is a stalwart of the Nepali Congress Party, he is seen as the future leader that can represent and bring the Congress out stronger among the masses. He recently spoke with journalist Rishi Dhamala on the current situation and state of affairs of his party and the nation.
Is Nepali Congress one, and are there no discontentment among leaders?
Nepali Congress was always one. We are a democratic party following the principles to voice out thoughts and concerns in the form of debates, discussions, and opinions, so it is obvious that there are issues that may have disagreements. I will give you an example, our founder Late B.P.Koirala wanted a revolution so he started buying arms. At that point, senior leader Subarna Sumsher Rana said to join hands with the King and India and move forward together. The same time Krishna Prasad Bhattarai was in jail, and he was against the idea. So there are differences always, we should not give it much importance. Factional politics does exist, but I am here to strengthen and move forward with a good ideology and thought for the people.
Why did you backtrack from Secularism?
While the constitution was being framed, right from the assembly I have always been in favor of Religious freedom. There were several other issues too, Sher Bahadurji, Ram Sharanji, know about it. We had also taken up the issue of proportional and inclusive representation. I have been vocal about it and still do.
Will it matter only if you are the one saying it?
First of all, let me be explicit that one of the stars in the flag of the Nepali Congress represents Religious freedom. This is well known across the party. We have also always stated that the Cow is our national animal, and we are against its slaughter or abuse in any form. Second, do not convert out of greed to any other religion. Against conversion is well listed in the constitution.
Why haven’t you spoken on the recent killings of Cows being taken from Nepalgunj to Surkhet?
That is not my job, it is a process and mainly the government should take action as it is also against the constitution. The state should take necessary action to this regard.
Hasn’t this been a National agenda from your party?
Our party has only given its opinion. We are here to voice concerns over that are happening. But what about those who claim to make Nepal a Hindu state, and took to the streets, where are they sleeping now? Why aren’t they raising this pertinent issue? Their silence is amazing, we have to separate religion and politics, those two put together will signal trouble for the country in the long run.
How did the incident happen under the Mayorship of Dhawal Sumsher Rana?
He is from the Rashtriya Prajatantra Party. I will say just that, primarily let us first separate religion from politics. Second, secularism and religious freedom are two different subjects. We should explain this to the masses. Secularism came from Europe, I have spoken about this before, separating the Church from politics. The idea of secularism came from overturning the power the Church held in political administration. We do not have that problem here. We fought for democracy and against totalitarian Monarchy, our fight has always been for democratic principles. As I said our star in our flag is based on the idea of religious freedom, and I am only making it clear.
Aren’t there leaders within the party debating on whether to support Nepal as a Hindu Nation?
Nepali Congress is a liberal democratic party. We cannot say that certain issues cannot be discussed or debated; everyone has a right to speak and question one another it is a democratic practice. There may be representatives who will seriously bring this up during the convention, so we have to be careful and manage it from the outset, but that has to be done by the leaders.
Is Nepali Congress in the campaign to make Nepal a Hindu Nation?
I haven’t said anything as such, where is the campaign to begin with?
Is the Nepali Congress going to change its stance?
Congress has never changed its stance. There is no use of such discussion.
Isn’t Nepali Congress itself weak on its policies?
No, we haven’t been weak at all. Republic and Secularism haven’t made us weak, we do not have a government in the center. Recently in the all-party meeting, the Prime Minister said that the King along with Biplav is trying to weaken the republic and finish secularism. We have to unite to tackle them. Has the King finished the republic? He is quiet and living his life. If one cannot manage the state of affairs he has no right to pinpoint and blame others. Even France was a Monarchy but it didn’t last, we have to work for the people, otherwise, this Republic will not last if the general masses are disappointed. In the issue of federalism, there are problems between the center and the state. The constitution needs to be adhered to and it is cardinal for the moment. States are at disagreement with one another, while the government is not being inclusive enough to tackle all these situations.
Haven’t have lost faith with political leaders and the establishment?
Yes, I was just getting to that point. Look at the case of the suicide of Salikram Pudasaini, and the arrest of Rabi Lamichhane. Why were the public out into the streets? Why when political leaders today are at the stage there are hardly 4-5 hundred people have you thought about this? The people have also lost faith in the justice system. The general masses do not believe they will get justice. Why does the CIAA only catch the smaller people but are silent when big names are involved? What happened to all the cases of massive corruption, the Lalita Niwas case, Gold Smuggling, The wide-body airplane procurement scandal, why isn’t the authority speaking up, in other countries they are penalized for such actions irrespective of who it is. Why is the CIAA afraid to even question the individuals, look at our neighboring nations they have all questioned even the topmost people in cases, why isn’t this being done here?
Aren’t the ruling and the opposition parties hand in glove in corruption?
The CIAA is independent of any partisan politics. If it is not running independently without prejudice I have nothing else to say. 58 people were named in the Lalita Niwas land scam, but none were prominent or powerful. How is the country going to move forward with a scenario like this? Continuous deliberations are ongoing in the wide-body airplane scam. There are investigative committees formed, none have been substantive. It looks mere procedural and it is indeed baffling. Probable those big leaders are involved and hence I am a little worried.
Isn’t the Nepali Congress President’s name is also associated with the Wide Body Airplane procurement scam?
I have not singled out anyone. It is a group and I am talking about it in general of people involved. I saw in a newspaper where a byline read how do we call the big shots? it hurt me reading such things. Your status should not matter, if you are guilty you have to be called upon for questioning. How will authorities investigate, and why are we in politics then? Aren’t we here to make a positive change in society? Is the law only for the general masses and not for the politically powerful, how is this justified? If you have taken a bribe of any sort you should be legally accounted for and prosecuted, whether being the giver or the receiver.
Coming September 24th you are protesting against the government in the streets, why?
We are planning to invigorate and instill awareness among our party workers. We will voice our concerns over the wrongdoings of the government through a mass protest, the people have to know how the country is being governed. We have to make people aware of the misdeeds of this government.
By taking to the streets will it be a solution or create further problems?
We are currently in the opposition. It is not only about the Nepali Congress Party. The government’s misdeeds have to be voiced out by the opposition. We have to take to the streets and let the people know. We are not there to trouble the streets or resort to acts of hooliganism, we are there to inform, and create awareness. The media council bill, commission for conflict victims, even Nepali Congress is caught in the mess. Former Chief Justice is the Chair of the Committee, how can we bypass that and allow the political parties to take over. What if the committee disagrees, it is a matter of grave concern. What would the International community think about our human rights situation in Nepal, if we continue this way the international council has already mentioned to remove Nepal from the list. We have not been able to provide justice for the victims. The leaders are not convinced and are unable to do anything.
Will the Nepali Congress go against the Republic, and Federalism?
No, we won’t. It is not about us whether we will oppose the Republic or Federalism of the nation. Regarding federalism, there was news just yesterday that the European Union nations have provided 11.40 billion Nepalese rupees to maintain it. The finance minister is requesting the World Bank for more funds to maintain the federal structure. If it continues in this manner then they can stretch this to maximum 4 years. We have to go to the districts to see the development, the state, and the center have funded the same project, how is that going to help? This duplicity has to end. Federal units have to be self-reliant not externally funded to continue its operation. We need a federal structure for the country due to our extensive cultural diversity. If we adhere to the constitution the federal structure will remain.