Despite consensus bid, UML may see tough contests for key postsOli is set to have a hard time managing many aspirants and fewer posts as party’s convention starts today.
As the stage is set for the 10th national congress of the CPN-UML, the main opposition, in Chitwan, incumbent chair KP Sharma Oli appears set to take the mantle of the party once again for the next five years.
Despite efforts—and Oli’s wish—to install various office bearers through consensus, a tough contest is likely among some seasoned members of the party.
There are a number of aspirants for some key posts like senior vice chair, vice chair, secretary general, and secretary.
“We are trying to forge consensus for office bearer posts among the aspirants,” said Pradeep Gyawali, head of the party’s Publicity Department. “There will be competition and voting for the post of central committee members but for office bearer positions, we will try our best to reach a consensus.
If consensus cannot be reached, Subas Nembang and Ishwar Pokhrel are likely to contest for the post of senior vice chair, a post that is considered powerful in the UML after the party chair.
The party has the provision of having only one vice chair.
For the five vice chair positions, Surendra Pandey, Kiran Gurung, Ram Bahadur Thapa, Asta Laxmi Shakya, Lalbabu Pandit and Ghanashyam Bhusal are in the race.
Thapa is a long-time Maoist leader who decided to side with Oli only recently. Bhusal is one of the 10 leaders who had launched a struggle against Oli at the behest of Madhav Nepal. But when Nepal formed the CPN (Unified Socialist), Bhusal stayed within the UML under Oli.
The general secretary post is also something which many leaders want.
Two key claimants for the post are Shanker Pokhrel, who is former chief minister of Lumbini, and Bishnu Poudel, who is currently deputy general secretary of the party.
Poudel was elevated to the post of secretary general when the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) was formed after a merger between the UML and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre).
Leaders say Oli will face a tough time managing Poudel and Pokhrel, as both are his favoured leaders.
According to a Central Committee member, some leaders like Subas Nembang are making a pitch for Bishnu Poudel, others like Bishnu Rimal, who was a chief advisor to Oli during his prime ministerial tenure, are in favour of Shanker Pokhrel.
Ishwar Pokhrel, who has been tipped as the next senior vice chair, is likely to throw his weight behind Shanker Pokhrel for the post of general secretary as both are strong supporters of People’s Multiparty Democracy, a theory propounded by the late UML leader Madan Bhandari.
Meanwhile, Prithvi Subba Gurung, former chief minister of Gandaki, is also said to be making up his mind to contest for the post of secretary general.
Lekharaj Bhatta and Top Bahadur Rayamaji, two Maoist leaders who have defected to the UML, are also eyeing the general secretary post.
“I have not decided yet and have not announced my candidacy,” Poudel told the Post. “Since we are in a bid to choose the leadership on the basis of consensus, our effort is towards achieving unanimity.”
Some senior party leaders told the Post that consensus is quite unlikely and that elections will happen because there are too many aspirants.
Leaders like Pradeep Gyawali, Gokarna Bista and Binda Pandey are in the fray for the post of deputy general secretary.
The UML has a provision of having seven secretaries. And there are at least 17 aspirants including Yogesh Bhattarai, Mahesh Basnet, Gokul Prasad Baskota, Bhim Acharya, Sher Bahadur Tamang, Padma Aryal and Shiva Maya Tumbahangphe.
Many UML leaders believe that this general convention is a key for the party’s political life as it will determine who will be the successor of Oli.
While Oli wants to determine his successor, he is currently in a dilemma, according to party leaders. As convention has now arrived, things are not as easy as Oli had imagined, they say.
“For the post of general secretary, it is Bishnu Poudel versus Shanker Pokhrel, and for the post of senior vice chair, there will be a fight between Ishwar Pokhrel and Subas Nembang,” said Pandit. “If they can reach a consensus, that’s a different thing.”
According to leaders, Oli will keep on saying consensus is the key, but voting is sure to happen as leaders are not going to give up on their candidacies.
Party leaders, however, say to maintain–and to show–that the UML is united, there should be a consensus leadership.
The UML is holding its national convention after facing a split–the Madhav Kumar Nepal group has formed its own party, the CPN (Unified Socialist).
“Our party has gone through a lot in recent times. We are holding the national convention on the heels of a split. This is the time to show that our party is united,” said Chhabilal Bishwakarma, a UML standing committee member. “Yes, there are aspirants for various posts, but our leaders should exhibit flexibility for the sake of the party. We cannot sustain further divisions and splits.”