Deuba’s unilateral moves lead to polarisation in Congress as party gears up for general conventionDespite protests from the Poudel faction, the party president says he will continue to form more committees as he reserves the right to do so.
Factional feud in the primary opposition Nepali Congress is rearing its ugly head once again.
The two factions led by party President Sher Bahadur Debua and senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel are now at odds after the former started to make some unilateral moves, filling in candidates of his choice in the party departments. In a surprise move, Deuba on Wednesday announced the formation of a 479-member “senior political assembly” under him, much to the Poudel faction’s chagrin.
The Poudel faction protested, but Deuba refused to relent. Instead, he decided to appoint members in 20 party departments. The party has a total of 42 departments, but they are yet to get full shape due to factional feuds.
“Internal democracy in the party has been on the wane, largely due to Deuba, and his unilateral moves are completely against democratic values,” said Poudel at a press conference on Thursday evening. “Deuba’s highhandedness has been increasing and we are not going to tolerate it.”
Party leaders say that confrontation is likely to escalate as Deuba is refusing to listen to anyone.
The Nepali Congress, which saw a spectacular defeat in the 2017 elections, has yet to get back on its feet. It has not been able to play an effective role in Parliament as the primary opposition.
Despite a humiliating loss in the 2017 elections under his leadership, Deuba has refused even to own up the defeat, let alone step down. As the party gears up for its general convention in February next year, Deuba instead is eying yet another term.
A section in the party has accused Deuba of employing illegal tools to influence leaders.
Poudel said on Thursday that his faction has decided to oppose the decisions taken by the party president unilaterally.
“We will keep on raising Deuba’s shenanigans until the general convention,” said Poudel.
On Thursday morning, Poudel, General Secretary Shashank Koirala, Treasurer Sita Devi Yadav and leaders Prakashman Singh, Ram Sharan Mahat and Arjun Narsingh KC, among others, lodged a protest at the party headquarters against Deuba.
They also submitted a copy of their protest letter to Deuba.
They have objected to Deuba’s move of forming various party departments even after the announcement of the date for the general convention and uneven distribution of party membership, among other issues.
In the 20 departments formed, Deuba has appointed leaders close to him as coordinators. His opponents have accused him of not holding any consultations while appointing them.
The Poudel faction says appointments should be made on a 60:40 ratio, with the establishment (Deuba) faction taking 60 percent share in appointments and the other group getting 40 percent.
Deuba claims that he has made the appointments so far from his share and that the rival faction should provide the names.
On Thursday morning also, after receiving the protest letter, Deuba was unapologetic.
According to a leader, Deuba told the rival faction that he as the party president reserves the right to form the departments.
“I had sought your support, but you refused, so I went ahead,” the leader quoted Deuba as saying.
Central member Gagan Thapa, who has sided neither with Deuba nor Poudel, said the ongoing confrontation could take an ugly turn.
“During general conventions in the past, disputes were seen at the district level but they rarely reached the central level,” said Thapa. “This time around, it’s the opposite. Dispute has begun at the top and this is not a good sign. I see an increasing polarisation in the party.”
Apart from the factions led by Deuba and Poudel, there is yet another group in the party led by Krishna Prasad Sitaula. Thapa is currently with Sitaula. The Sitaula group has always been against the Deuba faction, but it has not said whether it is going to side with the Poudel camp.
Thapa’s apprehension that the party could see further polarisation stems from the Deuba camp’s plan to form at least seven more departments “as early as possible”.
“We will wait for a week or so to receive the names from the Poudel faction. If they provide us with the names, that will be fine, or else we will move ahead as per the party charter,” said Prakash Sharan Mahat, a central member from the Deuba camp.