Unresolved disputes likely to delay Nepali Congress general convention by at least a monthWhile the party hasn’t been able to confirm active members in Bara, Rasuwa and Rautahat, ten districts are planning their conventions after Dashain.
Although the Nepali Congress has concluded its local level conventions in 64 districts and its various factions are gearing up for the battle for party leadership, it is still uncertain whether the party will hold its 14th general convention on the scheduled date of November 25-29.
Out of the 753 local units, the party has completed elections in 550 and the results are mixed with no faction showing clear dominance. As per the election results of the 550 local units, both Sher Bahadur Deuba and Ram Chandra Poudel factions are neck and neck and now both camps are focusing on the next round of elections— elections of the representatives to the general convention who will be elected from all 77 districts and 165 electoral constituencies.
But some leaders from the party’s opposition factions suspect that Deuba, who is both prime minister and party president, is looking for excuses to delay the general convention because some districts have yet to hold the local level conventions.
Also, in the event of the country going to an early parliamentary election, which some Congress leaders are in favour of, the party’s general convention could be delayed as the party’s priority will be the elections.
“If we hold the general elections in April-May, chances of our party winning and also becoming largest party in parliament are high, so we have advised the prime minister to go for early elections as staying in government for long in present times could negatively impact our election prospects,” a senior leader close to Deuba said.
But the leader said Congress will have to convince other members of the ruling alliance including the CPN (Maoist Center), CPN (Unified Socialist), and Janata Samajbadi Party, all of which do not want early elections fearing poor outcomes as they are still in the party building process.
Each of the three parties is either a breakaway faction or has seen a split.
But party vice-president Bimalendra Nidhi is against delaying the general convention any further. “It is not possible to defer the party’s general convention for a long time just because Deuba wants,” said the party’s vice president Bimalendra Nidhi, adding, “The general convention can be delayed for a few days or weeks but it cannot be postponed forever.”
Nidhi, a long time aide to Deuba, has announced to contest for party president challenging Deuba in the general conventions.
Due to weather conditions, the party had concluded the elections in 13 mountain districts by Friday. The remaining districts in the hilly and Tarai regions will hold the district-level conventions between Dashain and Tihar. Out of the 21 mountain districts, as of Friday, 13 districts have completed the local and district level conventions.
The party has to elect 4,500 representatives to the general convention from 165 electoral constituencies. The representatives will elect party office bearers in the general convention. Only 13 districts have completed the elections of representatives to the general convention.
“The general convention could be postponed for a few days but no one can stop it for any reason. We are determined to hold the convention on time and it should be concluded on time,” said Nidhi from his hometown, Janakpur on Monday.
After completing the elections in all 165 constituencies and districts, a likely scenario of the general convention election results can be predicted, Congress leaders say.
According to the tally provided by the party headquarters, the dissident Ram Chandra Poudel faction is giving tough competition to the Deuba faction in the local and district level elections.
“Initial results from the district and local levels show Deuba is slightly ahead of the Poudel faction,” a Congress leader who is analyzing the election results in 550 local bodies and 13 districts said, adding, “There is a cut-throat competition between the two factions at the local level.”
Both the factions have formed dedicated teams for analysing the party election results and each faction claims it is ahead of the other. But a leader requesting anonymity said the outcomes are mixed and none of the factions appears to be in a comfortable position.
Senior leader Ram Sharan Mahat said the party has yet to resolve some problems including the dispute over active membership in ten districts.
Mahat is also among those who doubt the party will hold the general convention on time. “There is dispute and controversy over holding the local level convention in the prime minister’s home district of Dadeldhura. In some districts, there has been a misuse of state machinery in the local level conventions. So all these have made timely general convention doubtful. And some leaders and cadres are staging protests at party headquarters in Sanepa and some are staging hunger strikes in district headquarters,” said Mahat. Mahat is considered close to the Poudel faction.
Due to long-running disputes, the party has not been able to publish the list of active members in Bara, Rasuwa and Rautahat districts. “Ten districts districts including Surkhet, Kailali, Banke, Dhanusha, Saptari, Siraha, Dolpa, Parsa, Mahottari and Sarlahi are conducting their local level conventions after Dashain,” said the party’s chief secretary Krishna Prasad Poudel.
Besides Deuba, Poudel and Krishna Parsad Sitaula factions, in some local units candidates backed by party general secretary Shashank Koirala and leaders Shekhar Koirala, Prakash Man Singh and Gagan Thapa have also won the elections. The Koirala duo and Singh with the backing of the Poudel faction have already announced their candidacies for party president. Thapa is contesting for party general secretary with the backing of the same camp.
Former general secretary Situala also thinks the general convention could be delayed. “There are some problems and the convention could be delayed by a maximum of one month,” said Situala, who is also contesting for party president.
Situala has meanwhile ruled out the possibility of early elections. “That is not going to happen. Early election is not on the party agenda at present,” he said.
A leader close to Deuba also said the general convention could be deferred by at least a month.
“We are expected to conclude the district level conventions by mid-November and provincial conventions by November-end, so this could delay the general convention by up to a month,” said Min Bishawkarma, a central committee member.