Congress leaders want poll alliance for local polls on needs basisOther members of the ruling coalition have been waiting for an official decision by Nepali Congress central working committee on an electoral alliance for upcoming elections.
A sharply divided Nepali Congress has started its Central Working Committee meeting from Friday to decide whether the party should forge an electoral alliance with its coalition partners and the modality for the alliance.
With most of the leaders speaking on Friday favouring an electoral alliance, the party is expected to decide accordingly as party president Sher Bahadur Deuba has also been saying publicly that the coalition must be saved until the federal and provincial polls.
“Today, a number of leaders including seven provincial chiefs delivered their briefings and they expressed mixed reactions to the idea of an electoral alliance,” said Jeevan Pariyar, deputy general secretary, who is close to the Shekhar Koirala faction. “They are of the view that electoral alliances should be forged only at the local level and on a needs basis.”
During the meeting, the Central Working Committee members have said the party could decide in favour of electoral alliances on a needs basis allowing the party’s local committees to decide on the matter instead of the party headquarters forcing an alliance on the local committees.
“Around 75 percent of the leaders speaking today said an electoral alliance was necessary,” said Min Bishwakarma, a Central Working Committee member close to Deuba. “But the party must not dictate from the centre and the local committees should be allowed to take decisions on alliance.”
Some of the provincial chiefs speaking during Friday’s meeting have also said the party should safeguard its voters, and allowing them to vote for other parties’ symbols could lead the party in the position similar to the Indian National Congress party, which has lost appeal among Indian voters.
The next meeting will continue from Sunday and probably conclude on Monday, according to party leaders.
But leaders said they have never said there should not be an electoral alliance and everyone’s stressed that the party should get maximum benefit from the alliance, said Pradip Poudel.
Of late, three top leaders of the ruling coalition have been speaking in a similar tone in favour of an electoral alliance and the coalition members are eagerly waiting for the Congress to make an official decision.
Three top leaders of the ruling coalition–Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and CPN (Unified Socialist) chief Madhav Nepal–speaking at separate functions on Thursday had suggested that the electoral coalition will continue until the federal and provincial polls.
Prime Minister Deuba had said that the ruling coalition should be saved until the federal and provincial polls to safeguard democracy.
“Not only in the local level polls, the coalition should be saved until provincial and federal polls,” Deuba said in Tanahun on Thursday. “They (coalition partners) should also be given appropriate space.” He had also directed his party’s organisation to focus on the local polls in a unified manner to ensure victory.
Despite sharp criticism from the Shekhar Koirala-led faction in the party against any electoral alliance, Prime Minister Deuba has been firm on forging the alliance with the coalition partners so that he could ensure another term as prime minister.
“Prime Minister Deuba has been speaking for the ruling coalition while leaders close to Koirala [Shekhar] are speaking for Congress cadres,” said Min Bishwarkarma, the central committee member close to Deuba. “Things will be settled through the meeting of the Central Working Committee.”
According to the leaders of the ruling coalition, Deuba has a majority in the Central Working Committee and therefore he will get the proposal to forge an alliance with the coalition partners endorsed by the committee and then the leaders will discuss the details of the alliance. Meanwhile Maoist Centre leaders said the party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has been focussing on electoral alliance just to ensure his victory in the Chitwan constituency number 3 and in the Bharatpur Metropolitan City to repeat his daughter as mayor.
The top leaders, according to sources in the ruling coalition, have also discussed electoral alliance in metropolises and allowing local committees to make decisions on electoral alliance in other local constituencies.
“The top leaders have been discussing allowing the respective party headquarters to decide on electoral alliances in metropolises, and giving the decision-making rights about electoral alliance in other local units to the parties’ local committees,” said Narayan Kaji Shrestha, a senior leader of CPN (Maoist Centre) who takes part in the meetings of the top leaders.
Leaders of another coalition partner CPN (Unified Socialist), which was formed only last year, have been waiting for the Congress to make a formal decision in favour of electoral alliance while remaining concerned about securing best deals for their party.
“Prime Minister Deuba is under extreme pressure from within his party. But he seems committed to continuing the electoral alliance,” said Ganga Lal Tuladhar, a Standing Committee member of the CPN (Unified Socialist). “We are making preparations in such a way that we can contest all the elections even without the support from other parties.”
The Unified Socialist that was formed in August last year after splitting from the CPN-UML has been struggling for its organisational set up throughout the nation.
“Top leaders have held several rounds of discussions but we have not been briefed on the developments,” Tuladhar told the Post. “We are waiting for Congress’ official decision on electoral alliance.”
But the party’s chairman Madhav Kumar Nepal has said there will be an electoral alliance among the ruling coalition partners on a win-win basis. “Discussions are going on for an electoral alliance among the parties in the ruling coalition based on a win-win principle,” said Nepal while speaking at a press meet in Janakpur.
Also, another coalition party leader Dahal speaking in Chitwan on Thursday said the coalition will contest all three elections as an alliance, while urging his party cadres to devote themselves to election preparations.
Even the Rastriya Janamorcha, which had quit the coalition protesting the passage of the MCC compact, has also expressed its desire to join the electoral alliance of the ruling coalition.
Similarly, leaders of the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party, which is not part of the ruling coalition, are also holding talks with the prime minister on their demands– bringing the law on citizenship and withdrawing cases against their party cadres.
“Since our party will benefit more if we could forge an electoral alliance with the ruling coalition, we are ready for it if our demands are met,” said Keshav Jha, a member of the Central Executive Committee of Loktantrik Samajbadi Party. “Our leaders have already held talks four times with the prime minister and they have been positive and it will resume again after four days.”
Though Jha said his party has not held any discussions with the UML, it is exploring all three options–fighting local polls alone, forging electoral alliance with the ruling coalition if their demands are met or partnering with the UML.
“We are open to all three alternatives,” Jha said.
During the previous local polls, the then Rastriya Janata Party, Upendra Yadav-led Sanghiya Samajbadi Party and the CPN-UML had fielded their candidates individually while Nepali Congress and Maoist Centre had partnered for the elections.
Another party in coalition Janata Samajbadi Party has also been waiting for the Congress’s formal decision on forging electoral alliance. The party’s leaders said there has not been any progress on it yet though the leaders in the alliance are discussing it. “If the prime minister wished, he could endorse the proposal of forging an electoral alliance,” said Upendra Yadav, chair of Janata Samajbadi Party. “All the coalition partners are awaiting Congress' decision.”
Before the start of the Congress Central Working Committee meeting, senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel had called a meeting of his faction at his residence where leaders suggested the party’s local committees should be allowed to decide on a poll alliance.
Meanwhile, the main opposition CPN-UML is also making its own preparations for the elections with its chair Oli poised to split the ruling coalition.
On Friday, Oli sent his deputy general secretary Prithvi Subba Gurung to meet Baburam Bhattarai, chairman of the federal council of the Janata Samajbadi Party, with a message to forge an electoral alliance.