Deuba to make desperate bid for party presidentThe 13th general convention of the Nepali Congress is going to be a do-or-die situation for senior leader Sher Bahadur Deuba, who has already lost two elections for the party president.
The 13th general convention of the Nepali Congress is going to be a do-or-die situation for senior leader Sher Bahadur Deuba, who has already lost two elections for the party president.
Deuba supporters say this is the last opportunity for the three-time prime minister to take leadership of the party from the convention scheduled to be held on March 3-6. Deuba has been trying to be at the helm of a united Congress for the past one-and-a-half decades.
He was the first to kick off the campaign by opening a contact office but the situation is still unfavourable for him as incumbent party President Sushil Koirala is preparing to renew his tenure. The establishment faction has a strong grip on the party organisation as a legacy of the late leader Girija Prasad Koirala.
In 2010, Deuba was defeated by Sushil and in 2000 he lost to the late Koirala. Leaders close to Deuba, however, say his prospects are better this time around. Deuba has fielded his confidantes across the country in order to bolster his position. After the late Krishna Prasad Bhattarai left the party, there has been a rivalry between the Koirala family and Deuba. Due to the differences over the dissolution of Parliament in 2002, the NC suffered a split and Deuba formed a separate party called the Nepali Congress (Democratic).
Before the first Constituent Assembly elections, the two Congress parties were merged. But the party has since functioned more as two factions.
Leaders close to him say Deuba has a strong possibility of being elected the party president in the upcoming convention. NC leader Prakash Sharan Mahat said Deuba has strengthened his position in the party wings such as of trade unionists, Dalits, women, journalists and students.
Some Koirala faction leaders such as Man Bahadur Bishwokarma, Chandra Bhandari, Shyam Ghimire and Kumar Budhathoki have joined the Deuba camp lately. “They are joining meetings called by Deubaji and they will support him in the convention,” said Central Working Committee member Ramesh Rijal, a strong backer of Deuba.
However, the Koirala faction prevails in the party structure. Sushil Koirala’s failure to run the party in a system and to make the party wings fully functional in the past six years is another issue that the Deuba faction is using to score points. The number of general convention representatives is also expected to increase.
Incumbent Vice-president Ram Chandra Poudel is also in the race. Poduel, considered a top leader in the Koirala camp, is challenging the party chief.
But Koirala is said to be determined to keep the party reins in the Koirala clan. When he was in frail health in 2010, Koirala reportedly announced that he would not fight for the party chief again. Now that his health condition has significantly improved, his supporters are pressing him to stand in the election again.
Leaders from the Deuba camp said their main promise is to run the party in a system. Mahat said they will introduce performance-based evaluation of party leaders. “Ending factionalism is also on our agenda,” he said.