Nepali Congress leaders trade verbal barbs over 14th general conventionWhile Deuba’s rivals accuse him of trying to postpone the event, allies say such allegations are baseless.
With conflict within Nepali Congress, the main opposition in Parliament, escalating, leaders critical of chief Sher Bahadur Deuba allege that he doesn’t intend to organise the general convention any time soon.
The Grand Old Party has scheduled its 14th General Convention from February 19-22 in Kathmandu. Through the general convention, the party elects the new leadership from the centre to local level.
“Party President Deuba is not interested in organising the general convention in February,” said central working committee member Minendra Rijal. “Even if he wants to, the situation is such that it is not possible to organise the general convention on time, and Deuba wants this situation to continue.”
Leaders from camps led by Deuba’s rivals Ram Chandra Poudel and Krishna Prasad Situala have accused Deuba of attempting to delay the general convention by creating one after another obstacle. But Deuba’s allies say that the allegations are baseless and the party president has never uttered a single word on postponing the general convention.
Ahead of the general assembly, the party needs to complete distributing active membership cards at the grassroots, form interim structures in all 77 districts and conduct district-level conventions before the end of December. The distribution of active membership cards is important as active members elect party leaders at the ward level. But the issue of active membership has always been contentious in the party.
Deuba’s recent move to form 20 new departments in the party just ahead of the convention has also widened the rift between rival leaders of the party, insiders say.
“Allegations that the party president doesn’t want to conduct the general convention are baseless and are unnecessary,” party General Secretary Purna Bahadur Khadka, told the Post.
“We still have 3-4 months to prepare a conducive environment for the convention. If distribution of active membership concludes by November, we can easily organise the general convention on the scheduled date. If there is a need to reschedule the event, the central working committee shall decide on it, not the party president,” said Khadka.
However Ramchandra Poudel said that if distribution of active membership cards is not completed on time and new representatives are not elected as scheduled, the party should allow representatives selected to attend the 13th convention, to cast their vote even in the 14th general convention.
According to party sources, Poudel said that if Deuba does not take his proposal issues seriously, he will be forced to go on an indefinite hunger strike.
But Poudel’s idea has not found favour with other leaders. If someone thinks that representatives authorised to vote in the past will be allowed to elect the new leadership again, they are wrong, they say..
Pradip Poudel, another central working committee and an ally of former general secretary Krishna Prasad Situala, said that chances are that the general convention will not take place in February. But there are chances that the convention won’t be organised even in April/May or August/September next year.
“ Fifteen district committees haven’t not completed the formation of interim structures as per new provisions of the party statute. We have decided to increase the number of active members by 50 percent, and that is yet to be completed,” said Pradip Poudel. “All proposed deadlines are getting affected due to Covid. We now sense that after failing to organise the general convention, party leaders will choose the leadership through consensus.”
The party has already extended the tenure of its elected bodies by a year—their terms now expire in March. As per the party’s statute, another six month can be added to the tenure allowing them to stay in office up to September, 2021.
Due to the Covid pandemic, several party functions and events remain suspended. Due to curfews and prohibitory orders, party functions have been put on hold across the country. So in this difficult condition, elections to the party’s lower levels have been put off, said party leaders.
Party leaders are now discussing various ways to resolve the dispute. But none of the proposals have been tabled or discussed inside the party's central working committee.
Meanwhile, the “second generation” of the party is also not not happy with the situation.
“Tensions and disputes inside the party are escalating”, said Gururaj Ghimire, a youth leader of the party.
“Thousands of active membership cards were distributed through illegal means to those who recently entered the party. We had such problems in the past as well, but this time, it has become pervasive. If this unilateral doesn’t stop, then there will be serious retaliation from within the party,” said Ghimire.