Amid deep divisions, pressure mounts on Congress President Deuba to hold general conventionFacing opposition in the party, Deuba finally agrees to table an agenda to hold the party’s 14th General Convention by mid-March
Tension ran high in the Nepali Congress after senior party leader Ram Chandra Poudel asked party President Sher Bahadur Deuba to propose a work plan for the party’s 14th General Convention. The ensuing face-off between the two party factions caused the meeting of the Central Working Committee, scheduled for 2pm on Sunday, to be postponed by nearly five hours. The meeting finally began at 6:45 in the evening.
The Deuba and Poudel factions have long been at loggerheads over the holding of the party’s 14th General Convention. While Poudel has been lobbying for the convention to be held by mid-March next year, party President Deuba does not appear to be ready.
According to the Poudel faction, there is an urgent need to revitalise the party, ever since its worst electoral defeat at all three levels. Poudel loyalists believe that the general convention can restore the party’s image and the party itself can begin working towards the next elections.
Deuba, on the other hand, is opposed to holding the general convention so soon and has been quietly working to extend the term of his presidency, along with the terms of the central working committee and other elected bodies, by a year and a half, said central working committee member Pradip Poudel.
Sunday’s central working committee meeting was scheduled to discuss 14 different issues, all related to the party’s internal working and national duties, said Bishow Prakash Sharma, party spokesperson. But he added that the holding of the general convention by mid-March 2020 was not one of them.
Before the meeting could take place, Poudel demanded that Deuba propose a work plan for the general convention.
“But Deuba refused,” Poudel told the Post. “Instead, the Deuba faction proposed approving the party’s charter, its regulations, reforming party organisation in line with the federal set up, and exposing the wrongdoings of the Oli government. After the meeting became uncertain, I left party headquarters.”
But Deuba eventually agreed to table an agenda related to the general convention during the central working committee’s next meeting, said central working committee member Nabindra Raj Joshi.
“The next central working committee meeting, scheduled for July 12, will discuss the party’s regulations. After approval of the regulation, we will be able to appoint interim party leaders for all seven provinces, 165 electoral constituencies, 77 districts, 6,668 wards,” said Sharma. “This is the beginning of the 14th General Convention.”
Earlier on Saturday, Deuba’s opponents had held an informal meeting at party Secretary General Shashank Koirala’s residence. The meeting decided to demand that Deuba commit to holding the general convention by mid-March.
According to Pradip Poudel, Deuba’s attempts to extend the term of the party president and the central working committee by a year had united many leaders, including Poudel, Krishna Prasad Situala, Shashank, Shekhar Koirala, Arjun Narsingh KC, in opposition. After coming under attack from his opponents, Deuba, during the last Central Working Committee in February, had announced that he would extend the current term by a year and a half.
If a political party cannot hold the general convention within five years, as per the constitutional provision, the term can be extended another six months.
Senior leader Krishna Prasad Situala, however, has been attempting to mend fences between the two factions. If the party president can bring a work plan to hold the general convention by mid-March, other issues like making interim appointments and holding general conventions of party’s sister organisations can be discussed, said Situala at the meeting.
After Deuba repeatedly failed to propose a new organisational structure for the parry in line with the country’s federal set-up, opponents like Poudel, Situala, Koirala and KC had begun to take issue with the party president, when all three, besides Poudel, had supported Deuba in the last general convention.
After the Poudel faction began to hold a series of meetings to chart a strategy to replace the party president, Deuba too held meetings with loyalists on Saturday at his residence, discussing retaliation.