Congress may have avoided risk of invalidation but challenges remainThe party has written to the poll body, informing about the start of its convention at the ward level.
Wednesday marked the last day of the term of Nepali Congress' incumbent leadership.
Having completed its four-year term and having exhausted another year and a half of term extension limit, the oldest party of the country now stares at a crisis. Congress hasn't conducted its general convention yet.
The constitution requires a party to complete its convention within five years.
Now it’s up to the Election Commission to decide the legal validation of the party.
In order to avoid a possible crisis, Nepali Congress General Secretary Purna Bahadur Khadka on Wednesday sent a letter to the Election Commission, informing that the party has already started its 14th general convention from September 3 and the party’s ward-level conventions were taking place throughout the country.
“We have already informed the Election Commission that we have started the process of our general convention,” Khadka told the Post. “It is a regular process of informing the election body about our party’s activities and our convention schedule.”
Party insiders say ward-level conventions in 56 of the 77 districts have been completed and that the dispute over the active members, who elect the representatives of the general convention, would be finalised within a few days.
The party has scheduled its 14th general convention for December 25-29 having postponed the dates three times—the first scheduled date was February 19.
It can extend the convention once for six months, given an extraordinary situation. Nepali Congress has cited Covid-19 pandemic for the delay.
Komal Prasad Dhamala, assistant spokesman of Election Commission, confirmed that the Nepali Congress had sent a letter informing that the party has started the process to hold its general convention.
“It’s now up to the commission to interpret the legal status of the party,” Dhamala told the Post.
He said the poll body can direct a party that fails to conduct a general convention on stipulated time to complete it within a certain period.
If the party fails to hold the general convention on the schedule set by the Election Commission, Dhamala said the commission has the right to refuse the party from participating in the upcoming general elections.
“The commission can even scrap the party registration if it defies the warnings and stipulations to hold the general convention,” Dhamala added.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court quashed a writ petition filed by a Nepali Congress Bagmati Provincial Assembly member demanding that the scheduled general convention of the party be stalled on the grounds of Covid-19 pandemic.
The petitioner had demanded that the period of pandemic should be counted as the ‘zero period’ and subtracted from the five year’s timeframe to conduct the convention. He had appealed to the court to postpone the general convention by one year, citing government ban on gatherings of more than 25 people.
A single bench of Justice Anil Kumar Sinha decided to quash the petition, saying that the country was gradually returning to a normal state and that the party had already started the process of holding its general convention.
With the Supreme Court’s decision, the Nepali Congress will have to complete its convention on scheduled timeframe to avoid an existential crisis.
The party’s 13th general convention was held on Mar 3-6, 2016.
The four-year term of the existing central working committee as per the party’s statute expired in March 2020. But the term was extended by one more year and continued till March this year, thus ending the five years term and mandate of all party committees. The party then extended its term by six more months as per the party’s statute, citing the Covid-19 pandemic. The extended term expired on Wednesday.
Youth leaders of the party have decried the negligence of older generation leaders. They accused the senior leaders of undermining the constitutional and democratic obligations of the party.
“Didn’t the party’s leadership know that time to hold the convention is about to expire?” asked Pradip Poudel, a youth leader and a likely candidate for the party’s general secretary post. “They [senior leaders] undermined the democratic values and spirit and their constitutional obligations.”