Gagan Thapa: over ambition, bad alliance or political suicide?

Nepali Congress leader Gagan Thapa.
Nepali Congress leader Gagan Thapa.

‘The Guardian of Democracy’ Nepali Congress concluded its 13th General Convention. The Convention will be remembered in future for two things: the victory of Sher Bahadur Deuba as the new President of the party and the loss of youth leader Gagan Thapa in the post of General Secretary.

Deuba’s victory is important cornerstone in Nepali Congress’ long history for a few reasons. First and foremost, it’s the shift-change that the leadership of the party is taken by someone who have no family tie with BP Koirala, the former PM and party President, whose name, fame and thoughts are still wow-ed by majority of Nepali; and for Nepali Congress leaders and cadres, BP Koirala is almost a semi-God. Deuba’s victory is also important in a sense that his vision will probably determine the future of the party. Despite being a promising politician, Deuba’s rash decisions – especially when he had been in the post of Prime Minister, have been childish mostly resulting in difficult time for democracy.

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Why Gagan Thapa’s loss will then be remembered?

It’s not because the post is won by Shashank Koirala, the son of BP Koirala, who has been wayward with his opinions. It’s also not because of Thapa’s candidacy against his father-in-law Arjun Narsingh KC, who despite being candidate of Deuba, lost the election with considerable margin.

I believe Gagan Thapa’s loss will be remembered because either he is designated to become a influential figure in Nepali politics (if it happens, people in future will wonder how he lost this election) or he will end up as ‘wasted promising talent’ (if this happens, people will see this election as the cornerstone for his career).

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Gagan Thapa is the most popular leader of Nepali Congress – he was not only the most sought-after orator for political assemblies by the party but also is very popular among youth and general public. His number of votes in the last Constituent Assembly election was a proof of his popularity. He has a huge fan following in social media; is an ideal for nation’s aspiring youth and a ray of hope in the politics for the general Nepali who have been forced to remain frustrated and hopeless from the political leadership. Yet he only received 500+ votes from 3,000+ delegates.

His low number of votes was shocking to some; yet it wasn’t unexpected to those who have interest in the intra-party politics. His loss draw some reasons – most notably that he is too young to be general secretary of the grand old political party, and that he chose an alliance with Krishna Sitaula which was a bad decision.

His father-in-law, and contender for the post, Arjun Narsing KC famously said, in an television interview: “Gagan Thapa’s candidacy is equivalent to political suicide.”

Is it? Only time will tell.

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A hard-hitting truth for Gagan Thapa and his core publicity team: Popularity doesn’t always convert to votes; media support doesn’t mean voters’ support; but election is always won or lost by votes.

Election within the delegates of a party is altogether different than general election. Many voters in party election are seasoned politician themselves; are more likely to remain within the panel; and evaluates candidates in all different criteria than the general public.

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For me, Gagan Thapa’s candidacy is neither a bad decision, nor an over-ambition, nor the political suicide (may be bad alliance, as I would have rather preferred him standing alone with his principles and fame as he once successfully did at the Tri Chandra College and continued at the Nepal Student Union).

Anyway, after the convention he has now projected himself as the natural candidate of the general secretary post in next convention; and learnt some hard lessons of politics at the right time when he could have become over-complacent of himself.

When Sher Bahadur Deuba stood against the ‘great’ Girija Prasad Koirala for the first time; the result was a nightmare for Deuba but nevertheless it told the Nepali Congress cadres to whom they should look at after the Koirala. Deuba did a long homework and ran his campaign early and hard to ensure the victory. If Gagan Thapa does the same, he will make himself proud in next Nepali Congress convention.

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