So far seven vie for Nepali Congress top postConvention in February but federal structure of the party yet to be formed.
In a new twist in the Nepali Congress leadership race, Bimalendra Nidhi, a confidant of party President Sher Bahadur Deuba, has expressed his intent to contest the post of party chief in the upcoming general convention scheduled for February.
Nidhi joins the race with other top leaders such as Ram Chandra Poudel, party General Secretary Dr Shashank Koirala, Shekhar Koirala, Ram Sharan Mahat and Prakash Man Singh. None of them has officially expressed their intent to contest the party’s top post, but are testing waters by announcing their intent only within the party.
Another senior party leader Krishna Prasad Sitaula, who had contested for leadership the last time round, has not yet revealed his intent. He has been vacillating between the Deuba and Poudel camps of late.
“I have been meeting senior party leaders to discuss various issues and where I have been sharing my thoughts with them, said Nidhi.
Deuba nominated Nidhi as party’s vice-president. Nidhi had earlier supported Deuba in his bid for the presidency during the 13th general convention held in 2016, promising to support him in turn during the 14th convention. But now Deuba himself wants to be the president for one last time, Nepali Congress leaders say.
Nidhi told the Post that he decided to contest the top post only with support from Deuba.
It is too early to say who the race will be between since it’s still months before the 14th convention scheduled for 19-22 February 2021. In preparation for the convention, elections at lower levels of the party’s structure yet to take place.
The party has instructed all its district committees to complete the formation of interim party structures in line with the federal set-up. But two dozen districts are yet to to form the party’s interim structure.
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.
Then the task of active membership distribution, probe into the distribution of active membership issuance row, holding local conventions will begin. After completing the process in all provinces, districts, and constituencies, it will pave the way for holding the central general convention, according to the party statute.
There is a big section within the party that feels since Deuba, 74, and his old nemesis Poudel, 75, have failed to invigorate the Nepali Congress, and they should step back and let a new crop compete for the top post.
While under Deuba, the grand old party of Nepali politics faced its worst defeat in parliamentary elections held in 2017.
While Deuba and Nidhi are in one camp Poudel, the two Koiralas, Mahat and Singh are another camp.
According to two Nepali Congress leaders close to the Deuba camp, there is a section within the camp looking for an alternative within the Deuba camp and have zeroed in on Nidhi.
But with five aspirants, the Poudel camp is divided.
“I am determined and I will contest the post of party president,” Shekhar Koirala told the Post but he faces a challenge from his cousin Shashank.
Another aspirant Mahat has also thrown his hat in the ring saying he is also eligible to become the party president because he brings a lot of experience working in the party and the government.
“This is too early to make an official bid but a lot of party leaders have asked me to contest the elections. I am ready and capable to handle the responsibility. If needed I will fight,” Mahat said.
If Nidhi goes his own way, it will be difficult for Deuba to win, leaders from the Deuba camp said.
“Time has not come to declare the candidacy officially. I will definitely consult with Deuba and other senior party leaders before the announcement.” Nidhi, son of the late Mahendra Narayan Nidhi, a towering leader inside the party and champion for raising the Madhesi issues inside the party, told the Post.
Besides Sitaula, the preference of leaders like Minindra Rijal and Gagan Thapa will have a say in the final decision of the aspiring candidates for the top post.