Unilateral decision-making debated in Congress meetLeaders upset as Deuba inducts loyals to central committee.
Several senior Nepali Congress leaders voiced criticism and grievances against the party leadership on the first day of the paty’s Central Working Committee meeting on Thursday. The party called the meeting to discuss and deliberate contemporary issues as well those related to the party organisation.
The chiefs of the party’s provincial units accused the leadership of ignoring and undermining them.
“If the party does not need the provinces and provincial committees, let’s get rid of them,” Shukra Raj Sharma, provincial party chief of Gandaki Province, told party president Sher Bahadur Deuba.
The party’s provincial chiefs are taking part in the meeting as “invitee members” and not as full-fledged central working committee members. Sharma demanded that the province chiefs be promoted to full-fledged central committee members.
Sharma also expressed his reservations against the party headquarter’s repeated intervention in decision-making of the provincial committees.
Inaugurating the meeting on Thursday, party chief Deuba had read out the names of eight new central working committee members he had nominated. According to a statement issued by the party, the new members are Chandra Bhandari, Man Bahadur Bishwakarma, Arjun Prasad Joshi, Shiv Prasad Humagain, Kiran Raj Sharma Poudel, Bharat Kumar Shah, Anil Kumar Rungta and Sharada Poudel. They were inducted to the Central Working Committee as per Clause 21(10) of the party statute, the statement said. As per the clause, the party president can nominate 33 persons from among the central convention representatives who have been active in the party for at least 10 years, to the committee—a powerful decision-making body.
Most new nominees are close to the Deuba camp. “The new appointments have made Deuba even more powerful in the central committee,” a Nepali Congress leader said, requesting anonymity. “And this has further weakened the dissident faction led by Shekhar Koirala and Gagan Thapa.”
Sharma, who was unhappy with the new nominations, demanded that the party chief clarify what criteria were adopted to pick the new members. Deuba has already nominated 31 members to the committee where he enjoys more than a two-thirds majority.
“We have inducted some friends to the central working committee,” Deuba said after the nominations. “Many eligible friends have been left out because of the limited number of available positions.”
He also asked central committee members to recommend some names during the upcoming Mahasamiti Meeting between November 29 and December 1 so that he could nominate two more members to the committee.
At the meeting, Gagan Thapa, general secretary of the party, presented a progress report of the party. In the report, Thapa stated that the party has recently formed 16 different departments and needs to give full shape to the remaining 54. “We are yet to receive reports from the central committee members who were earlier sent to 77 districts to hold discussions with the party's local leaders,” said Thapa.
Uddhab Thapa, the Congress leader who earlier served as the chief minister of the Koshi Province, complained that he could not get enough support from the party while serving as chief minister. Thapa was removed from the position by the Supreme Court’s mandamus order in July. Hikmat Karki of the CPN-UML has been appointed chief minister of the Koshi Province, but he lacks a majority in the provincial assembly. “A political decision is needed on how to form the government in Koshi,” said Thapa. “Some leaders are saying that they will raise this issue in the central working committee, but I think that it is now a gone case.”
At the meeting, party vice president Purna Bahadur Khadka, who is also the deputy prime minister and minister for defence, briefed party leaders about the ongoing protest of school teachers. He informed that the government is serious about the school teachers’ agitation and another deputy prime minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha has been entrusted with holding talks with them.
“Whatever agreement we had made in the past with the school teachers, we will implement them, but they should first come to the negotiating table,” said Khadka at the meeting as agitations by thousands of school teachers has thrown life out of gear in the Kathmandu Valley.
Nain Singh Mahar, another central committee member, complained about lack of coherence in the party’s decision-making. “In party meetings, we come to certain agreements, but later when the decisions are announced, they are different from what we initially agreed upon. Maybe there’s an issue with how the office bearers record the minutes,” he said.
The meeting was livestreamed on the party’s official Facebook page, but the stream was discontinued after the tea break. Whether the party will livestream Friday’s session remains undecided, according to leaders.
Senior party leader Bimalendra Nidi said that several concerns have been raised about some provisions of the constitution so the Nepali Congress should take a lead to amend the constitution. The party should form a “constitution amendment preparatory committee” and the party should seriously consider some concerns related to the constitution.
Questions over the government’s failure to deliver as per public expectations were also raised at the meeting. Pratima Gautam said that people are frustrated with the government for its failure to deliver services promptly, and rising inflation, among other issues.