Nepali Congress general convention likely to be postponed till mid-DecemberFaction led by Poudel accuses Deuba of creating new issues to push back the convention scheduled for September.
The Nepali Congress is likely to defer its scheduled 14th general convention till mid-December.
Earlier, the ruling party had planned to hold its general convention on September 1-4. But owing to the unsettled dispute over active membership distribution, the convention dates have been pushed back to December, multiple Congress leaders confirmed to the Post on Friday.
The party has not formally announced the rescheduled dates of the general convention yet.
A senior party leader said the party President and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has already instructed Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Gyanendra Bahadur Karki to consult with the Election Commission to find out the last date on which the party can hold its general convention.
Besides Minister Karki, Congress General Secretary Purna Bahadur Kahdka is also in regular talks with Chief Election Commissioner Dinesh Thapaliya to reschedule the convention date, the leader told the Post.
Thapaliya has reportedly agreed to consider the ruling party’s request and find a legal way by which the party can reschedule its general convention.
The constitution states that a political party should hold its general convention every five years.
Suppose a party could not hold its general convention within five years. In that case, the Election Commission can impose a fine of Rs50,000 and ask it to conclude the general convention within six months, said Thapaliya.
“Some have argued that the party’s legality will be over if the general convention is not organised by September. But that is not true,” Thapaliya told the Post.
The Congress charter has fixed the term and tenure of its elected bodies for four years. The party extended its mandate until February 2021 after failing to hold the general convention. The incumbent leadership of the party was elected in March, 2016.
After the party failed to elect the new committees within four years, the Central Working Committee had extended their terms by one year. But that one year also passed in February, and the Central Working Committee once again extended the term by an additional six months, as per the constitutional provision.
Since the party had until mid-September to hold its general convention, it was scheduled to take place on September 1-4. But it looks increasingly difficult for the party to hold its convention in September, as the dispute over the distribution of active membership is yet to be resolved.
The party had formed a seven-member task force, headed by senior leader Ramesh
Lekhak, to resolve the dispute. The task force has settled only 89 percent of the dispute so far.
The task of settling the dispute in 100 wards of four districts has been handed over to Deuba and senior leaders Ram Chandra Poudel and Krishna Prasad Sitaula. The three leaders are supposed to settle the dispute in consensus.
If the three leaders resolve the dispute concerning the active membership, then it should be approved and authenticated by the party’s Central Working Committee.
Senior leader Poudel told the Post that they have agreed to settle the dispute within five days.
The number of active members of the party has reached 852,711. The party has to prepare the Elections Guidelines to hold the vote at the ward, local, electoral constituency, provincial and central levels.
Besides, the election process of the party itself is a complicated affair.
The elections at the ward level can take place 19 days after the Election Committee publishes the final list of active members.
The Election Commission has to provide the names of active members for all 77 districts and 6,743 wards.
According to one official at the party headquarters, since all the ward level elections are conducted on the same day, it would take five days to print the name lists of active members, an additional three days to print the election directives, election charter, certificates and another three days to verify and pack the election-related documents.
Transporting the election-related documents and other logistical materials to all 77 district headquarters could take another four days before the district offices can distribute them to the concerned wards, the official added.
“The ward level elections can be held only after the confirmation that all 6,743 wards have received the active membership list,” the official told the Post.
If Deuba, Poudel and Sitaula resolve the dispute by August 4, it will take another 4-5 days to hold the party’s Central Working Committee to authenticate the active membership distribution.
“By that estimate, we will only be able to hold the ward level convention by September, the time the party is supposed to be holding its general convention,” said the official at the Congress headquarters.
Meanwhile, senior leader Poudel has accused President Deuba of creating new disputes to push back the convention dates.
“We only have the luxury of postponing the general convention by a few days because of the Covid-19 pandemic. But the intent of the establishment faction is not to hold the general convention on the scheduled dates. I am fighting to hold the convention on time but the situation is not favourable,” said Poudel.
A leader close to Deuba admitted that the ward level convention will begin only from the first week of September. He added that the conventions at other levels will depend on the Covid-19 situation and the weather.
“Holding the district level convention after September is unlikely because of the festival season. It is likely that the general convention will be pushed back to December,” the leader said.
He said that the party’s general convention will be held well ahead of the local elections set for March/April next year.
Congress Vice-president Bimalendra Nidhi also seems certain that the September general convention will be postponed.
“The month of July has ended and we have yet to resolve the dispute. There are a lot of preparations to make to hold the ward level conventions. At the current rate, it will be very difficult to hold the general convention by September 1,” Nidhi told the Post.
Still, there are some leaders in the party who think that the general convention can be conducted without causing a huge disruption to the schedule.
Pradip Poudel, a member of the Lekhak-led task force, suggests putting aside the outstanding dispute and holding the ward level convention on the basis of active members who voted in the leadership last general convention.
“Nearly 98 percent of the dispute has been settled, which is quite an achievement. What little dispute that remains is no reason to postpone the general convention,” said Poudel, who is considered close to Sitaula.