Congress faces revolt in grassroots bodies over seat-sharing decisionDisgruntled leaders and cadres in several units vow to defy alliance and contest local elections as independents.
After the electoral alliance of the five coalition partners decided to share the executive posts of six metropolitan cities and 11 sub-metropolitan cities on Wednesday, discontent is brewing in the local committees of the ruling Nepali Congress in different parts of the country.
Due to growing dissatisfaction among party workers in the places where mayoral positions of metropolises and sub-metropolises were allocated to other parties in the alliance, a meeting of the Nepali Congress Central Working Committee scheduled for 2pm Friday has been postponed until 11am Saturday.
Since the leaders need more time for discussions, the meeting has been postponed, said Keshav Rijal, secretary at the Central Office. “The party will finalise the candidates tomorrow.”
However, Congress insiders say party chief Sher Bahadur Deuba is under pressure amid growing discontent in the party’s lower rungs and therefore he wanted to defer the meeting until Saturday.
As per the Election Commission’s schedule, candidates have to file their nominations on Sunday and Monday for the May 13 local level polls.
For mayors, the coalition has decided to field a Maoist Centre candidate in Bharatpur, a Janata Samajbadi Party candidate in Birgunj and a CPN (Unified Socialist) candidate in Pokhara.
While the coalition has decided to field a Janata Samajbadi Party candidate for mayor in Janakpur Sub-metropolitan City, a CPN (Unified Socialist) candidate will contest for mayor in Hetauda, Maoist Centre candidates in Ghorahi and Jitpur-Simara, and Congress candidates will be fielded for mayors of seven other sub-metropolitan cities—Dharan, Itahari, Kalaiya, Butwal, Tulsipur, Nepalgunj and Dhangadhi.
Disgruntled local Congress leaders have started opposing the party’s decisions and in some places they have even resigned from their positions and announced to contest the elections as independent candidates.
As per the agreement in the ruling coalition, the Janata Samajbadi Party is to field its mayoral candidate in Janakpur Sub-metropolitan City, but Nepali Congress president of the sub-metropolitan committee Manoj Sah, protesting the decision, announced his resignation from the party by organising a press meet on Friday.
Sah, who had lost a mayoral race in the last local polls, was an aspirant for the position this time as well. But the decision of the alliance crushed his dream. Sah said he would contest the polls as an independent.
Along with Sah, party’s sub-metropolis committee secretary Lal Babu Mishra, treasurer Birendra Yadav and Ward 15 president Nanda Lal Sah have also quit the Congress along with dozens of members.
In Bharatpur, local Congress leaders dissatisfied with the party’s decision to cede the mayorship to the Maoist Centre have started campaigning to field an independent candidate. They have been organising gatherings and are preparing to field 84-year-old Krishna Lal Sapkota for mayor of the Bharatpur Metropolitan City.
The local leaders had been lobbying with their top leaders to ensure that a Congress candidate is fielded for mayor this time, arguing that as the party had supported the Maoist Centre during the last local polls.
Nepali Congress Chitwan district president Rajeshwar Khanal is reportedly having a tough time pacifying the irate party leaders and cadres.
On Friday evening, the local leaders and cadres padlocked Khanal’s office after he issued a circular to party workers to follow the party’s decision to support a Maoist candidate for mayor. But the circular only made local leaders angry and Congress leaders including Central Working Committee member Tek Prasad Gurung and former lawmaker Jagannath Poudel resorted to padlocking the party office on Friday.
Congress chief Deuba has dispatched state minister Umesh Shrestha to Chitwan to convince the disgruntled leaders and cadres of Bharatpur to accept the alliance’s decision.
Congress local leaders and cadres have also revolted after the party’s decision to cede ward chairperson posts to other parties in Dhangadhi Sub-metropolitan City.
In Dhangadhi Ward 18, around 100 active members of the Congress including the ward committee president have resigned en masse following the decision of the alliance to field a non-Congress candidate for ward chair.
In Pokhara, Congress leaders had padlocked the Kaski district party office before the announcement of the decision on Wednesday. Unhappy Congress leaders and cadres have announced that they would reject the party’s decision and field their own candidates in all office bearer positions in the metropolis.
However, some party members have said the discontent would not last long and the local leaders within a few days would come to terms with the party’s official decision.
“I don’t think many local leaders are unhappy with the headquarter’s decision, so the unhappiness among a few will vanish soon,” said Pradip Poudel, a central working committee member. “It’s natural for those leaders who were hoping to contest the elections to become unhappy after they were denied tickets.”
Political analysts have said the seat-sharing arrangement of the ruling coalition was a marriage of convenience and it would ultimately harm the system and the Nepali Congress.
“This alliance is not based on ideology but on interests and each party must make compromises,” said Professor Lokraj Baral, who has also served as Nepal’s ambassador to India.
He said that an alliance based on interests would harm not only the democratic system but also the Nepali Congress in the long run. “If you go for alliance politics then you must accept a give-and-take but the question is how that benefits the democratic system,” Baral told the Post.