Congress indecisive on interim party structure and general convention as dispute deepensDeuba is seeking a term extension by one year. The Poudel faction opposes the plan.
A fresh discord in the Nepali Congress has deepened the divide as leaders scramble to set their house in order. The ongoing meeting of the Central Working Committee, which started last month, is still struggling to form the interim party structure, its modality and the timeline for the party’s 14th general convention.
After Wednesday's meeting saw an ugly dispute between the leaders of the two factions—party President Sher Bahadur Deuba and senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel, leaders say they are worried if the top leadership is serious about finding a solution to problems that have been plaguing the party.
“The top leadership is sharply divided and no one seems to be serious about the party’s future,” said Pradip Poudel, a Central Working Committee member. “Holding the general convention should be the major focus but every top leader is concerned about forming their own group.”
Deuba and Poudel are poles apart when it comes to the party’s 14th general convention, which according to the party statute must be held by March next year.
While the Deuba faction wants to create an interim structure of the party in line with the federal set-up before announcing the date for the general convention, the Poudel faction is making a pitch for fixing the date for the event and creating the party’s interim structure simultaneously.
The party is yet to adopt a federal structure—it has to create organisations and committees in the seven provinces, 165 federal constituencies, 330 provincial electoral constituencies, 753 local units and over 6,000 ward committees.
Finalisation of the interim structure is a must for the party to hold its general convention. With only seven months left for the general convention, Deuba on Wednesday said that the current mandate and term of the elected bodies should be extended by at least a year after March 2020, which the Poudel faction has taken an exception to.
After the heated debate between the top leaders, the Central Working Committee meeting on Wednesday directed party Vice-president Bimalendra Nidhi and General Secretaries Shashank Koirala and Purna Bahadur Khadka to come up with a proposal on how the party could form the interim structure—through elections or consensus or a general understanding among the leaders, according to Pradip Poudel.
But the formation of the interim structure is not going to be an easy task for the Congress party. While it is hamstrung by factional fights, it has an influential leader who holds sway over a sizeable number of leaders in the party.
“What will happen to Bijaya Gachhadar and others who joined our party late?” Krishna Prasad Sitauala questioned at Wednesday’s meeting. “The old wards, village development committees and electoral constituencies have merged and become bigger. A village development committee has turned into a ward. A village development chair of the party has become a ward chair now and what will happen to those other nine ward chairs who were elected but came from the previous structure?”
According to Sitaula, who himself leads a third faction in the party, a suitable modality must be prepared first.
“That’s why I would like to urge the leadership to bring a proposal on ways to resolve this particular issue,” Situala told the meeting.
Nidhi, on the other hand, has suggested that the party should form the internal structure by mid-October.
“But some of our friends objected to my proposal,” said Nidhi. “The process to form the internal structure can be completed either through elections, consensus or general understanding.”
Deuba, who has faced criticism from his own party members for failing to embrace democratic principles and running the party unilaterally, met with fierce opposition from the Poudel faction on Wednesday for trying to extend his term by another year.
“I am being accused of not letting the general convention take place on time,” said Deuba at Wednesday’s meeting. “I would like to reassure everyone that the party’s general convention should be held every five and a half years as per the party charter. I do not want to extend the term of the current leadership. But if we fail to find consensus, there is no option but to extend the term.”
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