Congress dissidents to Deuba: Mend ways or face consequencesAs Nepali Congress central committee meets, rival faction gears up for showdown with party chief on multiple fronts.
A group of Nepali Congress dissidents led by senior leader Shekhar Koirala met party president Sher Bahadur Deuba on Wednesday on the eve of the party’s Central Working Committee meeting, and pressed him to correct the course or face consequences.
This sets the stage for a showdown at the Central Working Committee meeting, which is starting Thursday. The Koirala camp is preparing to attack Deuba on several issues related to party affairs including unconstitutional attempts to form government in Koshi province, and alleged poor performance of the Maoist Centre-led coalition government, of which the Congress is a partner, among other things.
Before meeting Deuba, the Koirala camp on Tuesday held a gathering of its group and discussed its agenda for the upcoming meeting. As per the gathering’s decision, Koirala, law minister and party vice president Dhanraj Gurung, and others had reached Deuba’s residence and expressed their strong displeasure at his alleged attempts to run the party unilaterally and demanded that he correct his working style.
On Tuesday, during a separate gathering called by party general secretary Gagan Thapa and senior leader Koirala, the dissident camp unanimously agreed that the government had failed to cater to people’s aspirations. Leaders said they may ask the party to seek alternatives to the current Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government if it continues to fail to meet people’s aspirations.
Some senior leaders of the Koirala-Thapa camp, including party vice-president Dhanraj Gurung, Minendra Rijal, Dilendra Badu, Krishna Chandra Nepali, Badri Pandey and Chandra Bhandari were present at Tuesday’s meeting.
“Our functioning is chaotic, sister organisations are dysfunctional, and different districts are reporting disarray in party organisation,” said Gurung who had accompanied Koirala and other leaders.
“The party should be run as per the charter. The central working committee is yet to get a full shape, and several party committees and departments are yet to be formed. The party’s unconstitutional decisions in its attempt to form a government in Koshi Province have sent a very negative message to the public,” said Gurung.
At the meeting on Wednesday, Koirala stated that Deuba has been running the party unilaterally, there is no transparency in decision-making, the party charter has been ignored and no discussions or debates are held on vital issues related to national politics and governance.
“Your decisions are irrational and have harmed the party’s image. Congress representatives in the central and provincial governments have failed to work for people’s good. All these issues need serious discussion in the party, or else, we will be forced to seek alternatives,” Koirala told Deuba, according to a Congress leader.
Koirala also expressed his displeasure at Deuba’s selection of the party’s ministerial candidates without consulting the party, the unconstitutional tactic used by the party in an attempt to form government in the Koshi province, and haphazard formation and restructuring of the party's sister wings, among other things.
“The party’s attempt to form a government in Koshi through unconstitutional means has tarnished the party’s image,” Koirala told Deuba, according to the leader.
Koirala, a senior leader of the party, had contested against Deuba for the post of party president in 14th general convention in December 2021. Since then, he has been running a parallel camp in the party and has been flagging the establishment’s wrongdoings.
A Koirala camp leader said frustration is rife among Congress leaders, cadres and voters due to the party’s failure to deliver on its promises including taming corruption, ensuring good governance, and several other pledges related to economy and job creation, among other things.
According to Govinda Pokhrel, at Tuesday’s meeting, almost all leaders of the Koirala camp had raised serious questions regarding the functioning of the government saying that the public feels the Nepali Congress is obstructing the government’s crackdown on corruption.
“They expressed concerns over the rampant corruption, economic downturn and the mass exodus of youths and students from the country,” said Pokhrel.
As many as two dozen Central Working Committee members were present at the meeting, according to leaders.
“There are no grounds for taking comfort in the government’s performance,” said leader Sanjay Gautam. “The activities of the government are becoming increasingly frustrating and there is deep disenchantment in the public with this government, of which we are also a part.
“Since we are part of the government, it is our responsibility to monitor and evaluate the performance of the government, and intervene if it goes in the wrong direction. The government has failed to connect with the everyday lives of the people; its performance and decisions are not people-friendly. We will raise these issues at Thursday’s meeting,” said Gautam.
The gathering is being seen as a “warm-up exercise” for the Central Working Committee meeting.
Law Minister Gurung had complained that he was not getting support from the party leadership.
Nepali Congress has nine ministers led by Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Purna Bahadur Khadka in the Dahal Cabinet and holds key portfolios like defence, finance and foreign affairs.
“We need strong support and cooperation from the party in order to work efficiently, but we are not getting that from the party leadership,” said Gurung at the meeting. “I tried to appoint new judges, but the party president attempted to intervene.”
Gautam strongly criticised the party’s decision to ignore the constitution in its recent attempts to form a government in Koshi Province.
The Nepali Congress had nominated Uddhav Thapa as Chief Minister of Koshi Province, twice, but the Supreme Court invalidated his appointment on both occasions. “The decision taken by the party in Koshi Province was a blunder,” said Gautam. “This has emerged as a complex political issue and the party needs to address it the right way.”
Although Koirala had invited another general secretary of the party, Bishaw Prakash Sharma, and Pradip Poudel to the meeting, neither attended. While Sharma chose to skip the meeting citing his busy schedule, Poudel flew to China on Tuesday. Of late, the Koirala-Thapa camp has been trying to foster a new alliance in the party and bring together those who are unhappy with the party’s leadership.
The leaders who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting were also in favour of holding regular meetings of party committees so as to convene the party’s 15th general convention on time.
“We discussed what else can be on the agenda for the upcoming Central Working Committee meeting,” said Badu. “We should also follow the party’s calendar prepared by the two general secretaries, Thapa and Sharma.”
“Nepali Congress should work to win the next elections starting now,” Badu added. “For this, the party has to make itself more dynamic.”