Rebel candidates continue to be a headache for Nepali CongressThe party asks them to withdraw from the race. Congress members have also been inactive in constituencies where alliance partners have fielded candidates.
As the federal and provincial elections close in, the worries of Nepali Congress, the main party in the ruling alliance, have grown. If not mitigated on time, intra-party rift and betrayal, say party leaders, could harm the party’s poll prospects next month.
The party is this time filing candidacies in only 91 out of 165 directly-elected House of Representatives seats, putting it under intense pressure to win most of them.
Leaders said the party leadership is trying to address the problem so the Congress would emerge as the single largest party from the November 20 elections.
The dissident voices in the party are calming down, said Jeevan Pariyar, a Congress joint general secretary. “The worst days are behind us,” he added, playing down the impact of intra-party disputes on electoral outcomes.
Fearing intra-party feuds and betrayals could hamper their chances of being elected, senior Congress leaders like Bimalendra Nidhi, Gopalman Shrestha, Arzu Rana Deuba, Prakash Sharan Mahat and Jeevan Pariyar have opted out of direct election. They are, however, listed among proportional representation candidates.
After nominating its candidates on October 9, the party had asked rebellious, independent and unofficial party candidates to pull out of the race. “Many have complied but over two dozen of them are still in the fray,” said Min Bishwakarma, a leader close to Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba who is also the party president.
Some Congress leaders said the party’s official candidates fear betrayal due to rivalries and factionalism within the Congress, which is largely the result of the party having fewer tickets to give to hopeful Congress candidates due to its electoral alliance with three other parties.
“It’s not the right time to fuel internal feuds in the party,” said senior Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel. Addressing a mass meeting in Butwal on Friday, he added: “First, we have to protect the system and the [recent] political achievements.”
Poudel suggested Congress should unite to achieve its broader goals first, hinting at the harm to the party’s poll outcome if the feud festered.
Even some top Congress leaders are worried about the contest in some constituencies due to possible betrayal by party supporters, a central working committee member said. Whether it is Morang or Chitwan or Kathmandu, some senior leaders fear losses.
Another big worry is how well supporters of other parties will vote for Congress candidates. Dissatisfaction among party members over the choice of candidates for direct election continues to grow, which does not bode well for party unity, leaders say.
The Congress party has asked its remaining rebel candidates to pull out of the race without any delay. For another week, the party will continue to push the remaining ones to back off, said Bishwakarma. “We’ll somehow manage,” he added.
In order to manage discontent, the party has included in various committees those who did not get poll tickets. The Congress has recently formed the central election mobilisation committee and the central election publicity committee. The majority of party leaders and cadres who were denied tickets were nominated as members of the central mobilisation committee.
Voices of opposition to official Congress candidates are being heard in several districts Congress members who have stood as independents could also dampen the party’s votes.
Party leaders are unsure how many House of Representatives seats will be lost due to internal betrayal but top leaders are being challenged by fellow Congress members in districts like Jhapa, Morang, Syanga and Kaski. “There are problems in over a dozen districts,” said another central committee member. If the problem is not addressed on time, party members fear, the party could lose vital seats in both federal and provincial elections.
A leader close to Deuba said that besides the Shekhar Koirala-Gagan Thapa camp, the party leadership had to satisfy five other groups in the party during ticket distribution.
According to him, 51 of the party’s official candidates are from the Deuba camp. There were 22 leaders nominated from the Koirala-Thapa camp. Other tickets were given to the groups led by Krishna Prasad Sitaula, Prakash Man Singh, Ram Chandra Poudel and Shashanka Koirala.
According to insiders, Singh, Poudel and Shashanka supporters have gotten six, five, four and three seats, respectively.
The tendency of dissatisfied party members to be inactive during the elections is another challenge, said Prakash Sharan Mahat, the Congress spokesman.
“The way our people are inactive and not cooperating with the candidates of the ruling alliance is creating some tensions within the alliance. They seem particularly inactive in the constituencies where candidates of the Nepali Congress are not contesting. We are trying to manage the situation,” said Mahat.