Deuba and Poudel seem on equal footing in race to Congress leadershipLeaders say the picture will be clearer after the results of local level conventions are in from all 77 districts.
Nepali Congress on Sunday concluded the conventions in local units—rural municipalities, municipalities, sub-metropolitan cities and metropolitan cities—in 64 out of 77 districts.
Now party leaders are busy calculating the results to see which camp is leading and what could be the possible outcome when local level conventions are over in all 77 districts. That could also provide
a glimpse of who will win in the upcoming 14th general convention of the party scheduled to take place on November 25-29.
The initial projections show mixed results with the factions led by party President and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and Ram Chandra Poudel on equal footing, according to party leaders. Another camp led by former general secretary Krishna Prasad Sitaula, meanwhile, is seen strong in Jhapa district.
There is steep competition between the Deuba and Poudel factions.
“We are expecting the results of 11 districts by Sunday evening,” party spokesperson Bishwa Prakash Sharma said. “We may then be able to analyse the scenario, but we’ll get a clear picture only after the elections of the general convention representatives conclude.”
In Province 2, where the vote is yet to be held, tough competition is expected between Deuba and party Vice President Bimalendra Nidhi, who has also announced his candidacy for the post of president.
A close aide of Deuba, Nidhi has said he will not withdraw his candidacy.
If Nidhi goes ahead with his plan, he could cut Deuba’s chances of being re-elected, leaders say.
With the initial results coming from the local level, the Poudel faction is upbeat about having a strong hold on the new party leadership. “Despite restrictions and the opposition, our camp is doing well and the results are positive,” said senior leader Arjun Narsingh KC.
Leaders from both sides claimed to have won above 60 percent seats in the local conventions.
“We are in a comfortable position so far. Our claim is that we have won around 60 percent of local units,” a senior leader close to Deuba said. “Once the results of Province 2 and Kathmandu Valley are out, it will make our position stronger.”
In Kathmandu Valley, Prakash Man Singh is the dominant leader. Both Deuba and Singh had formed their panels for the elections.
“In the ward and local level elections, we seem to have garnered over 55 percent vote,” an NC leader said about the Deuba camp. “It shows if Nidhi runs for party president, he’ll curtail Deuba’s prospects, mostly in Province 2.”
In that case, Deuba has Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar and Sunil Bahadur Thapa to check Nidhi, the leader said. Thapa left the Rastriya Prajatantra Party before joining the Nepali Congress in July, 2020.
Besides, Deuba also hopes that Sitaula will eventually support him.
The Poudel faction, meanwhile, is divided over its presidential candidate. Poudel, General Secretary Shashank Koirala, senior leaders Prakash Man Singh and Shekhar Koirala have already announced their candidacies for the post of president.
Inside the Poudel camp, there is a tacit understanding among the presidential hopefuls that after the initial results of convention representatives are out, they will zero in on one candidate based on who gets the most support.
A Poudel supporter told the Post that his camp has at least 60 percent support at the ward level but due to the lack of unity among the top leaders, the results did not reflect in the local level elections.
“We have votes but if we remain divided, we won’t be able to protect them. We’ll be losing,” the leader said. “Some results in some rural municipalities and municipalities have given mixed signals, which worry us.”
From the Poudel camp, the Koirala panel and Gagan Thapa, who has announced his plan to contest the general secretary position, have earned good support, Puranjan Acharya, an analyst, said based on his reading of the party vote.
“Initial results from eastern Nepal put Deuba in a weak position. He is doing a bit good in the far west and the western region. In the Poudel camp, the team of Shekhar Koirala and Thapa is doing well,” Acharya told the Post.
Once the local level elections are over in 4-5 days, there will be a predictable picture, he said.
The fight inside Nepali Congress is getting tougher and more complicated as Deuba could not hold the ward level elections in his home district Dadeldhura. Due to a dispute over distribution of active membership, some leaders from the Poudel camp have been staging a hunger strike in the district for a long time.
Ramesh Lekhak, a leader close to Deuba, said initial trends show both sides are winning equal seats.
“Our camp is doing well as per the reports I have received from different districts. Once elections in all districts are over and general convention representatives elected, we will have a more accurate prediction,” said Lekhak.