By Kamal Raj Sigdel
Gagan Thapa means business. At a gathering of party colleagues and friends before the Nepali Congress General Assembly last week, the young Turk said he was confident of victory in the party’s central working committee (CWC), “The challenge for me is to garner the highest number of votes.”
The votes were all counted on Monday (27 Sept). And true to his words, he was the No. 1. With 2,061 votes in his kitty, he stands out as the most favoured among the 25 new CWC members elected from the open competition.
However, this was not a surprise for many inside and outside the party. For, it was discernible before the election that the young man had managed to shore up support from a multiple sections of the party’s constituencies, including the youth, the establishment faction and obviously from his father-in-law, Arjun Narsingh KC, who stood only second after him.
Thapa himself, however, believes that his success is the reward for his loyalty to the party. “I remained disciplined at testing times,” said Thapa, whose request for a ticket to fight for the 2008 Constituent Assembly (CA) polls was turned down by then party president Girija Prasad Koirala. He was later nominated as a CA member from the proportional representation quota.
“My obedience made the party realise that in fact I could be trusted and I got the reward.”
Besides his obedience and the good wishes of senior leaders, according to KC, Thapa’s own popularity among both the youth and senior leaders in the party is uncontested. “He is young, educated, talented and dynamic. And he won,” KC said.
In fact, since the last few years, Thapa has been a poster boy for the party and to some extent a section of civil society as he is considered to have typified the progressive and reformist thoughts in the socio-political sphere. He rose to prominence especially after the royal takeover in 2005 and during the 2006 People’s Movement when he presented himself as a “fearless and reformist” youth from the NC.
However, some senior leaders do not concede with the perception that Thapa is really a reformist.
“Apparently, he looks reformist, but in fact, he always wants to be secure at every step he takes to prop up his individual political career,” says political analyst S. Aniruddh Gautam. “And his talent is that he can project himself as a reformist. He does that with his excellent oratory, a rarity among Congress leaders.” This very tendency to remain secure, his critics say, would limit his leadership potential within a narrow line, thereby handicapping him in the advocacy for a real departure in the party’s policy and programmes.
Leaders from the “fearless” Third Front, who were expecting Thapa’s hand during the party’s election, subscribe to this view. “He neither could support Narahari Acharya nor come up with a separate Youth Front. He joined his family bandwagon and this is what every Tom, Dick and Harry did,” said a leader from the Third Front that lost miserably.
Born in Kathmandu on 16 July 1976
Ancestral home Solukhumbu
Education Siddhartha Banasthali (SLC, 80 percent), ISc and BA in Sociology from Tri-Chandra College, dropped out of MA in Rural Development from Tribhuban University
Currently Studying (as of 2005) Master’s in Political Science from TU
As a student Not bad, I was among the selected 50 in school likely to top SLC
Plans PhD in Political Economy from Jawaharlal Nehru University, India but not before democracy is restructured in Nepal.
Sports Basketball, I was captain of the college team
Family Three brothers (engineers, a doctor), father (engineer), mother (homemaker)
Initially I thought I would end up as another doctor or engineer
In 1990 I got my first taste of political activism participating in street protests. Still in grade nine, I wasn’t politically inclined. We did burn an effigy of the Panchayat era but it was all youthful vigour, not real political interest.
Has been member, secretary and president of Free Student Union; president of Kathmandu Nepal Student Union (NSU); vice-president, general secretary of NSU
Major political influences are Nelson Mandela and BP Koirala, they had vision and leadership qualities (Source Wave Magazine. Click here to read Gagan’s Q&A with the Magazine in 2005)
1. Gagan Thapa Declares Nepal Student Union Presidency Candidacy (2007)