Poudel firm on running for NC chief despite oddsNepali Congress Vice-president Ram Chandra Poudel has made up his mind to run for the party presidency during the upcoming General Convention.
Nepali Congress Vice-president Ram Chandra Poudel has made up his mind to run for the party presidency during the upcoming General Convention. According to leaders close to him, Poudel will not withdraw his bid in favour of either NC President Sushil Koirala or senior leader Sher Bahadur Deuba.
Poudel has intensified his nationwide campaign and is upbeat from the response he is getting from the ground, his supporters say. The NC is holding its 13th General Convention in March and the race for the party president has gathered momentum.
However, due to his weak command over the party structure, the convention is expected to be an uphill task for Poudel, who is known as a moderate leader but with a wavering stance on crucial agendas.
His first challenge is to convince the party rank and file that he will not change his stance at the last moment as he did several times in the past. Though he is respected for his hard work, ideology and comparatively clean image, they hesitate to support him given his past stances. Poudel’s political career was always overshadowed by the Koiralas so he never had cordial relations with them. But it is also true that he became the Speaker, deputy prime minister and minister several times after the political change of 1990 due to his proximity with the Koiralas who have led the party most of the time since.
According to NC leader Puranjan Acharya, Poudel seems determined to fight for the top post. Acharya said there has been an encouraging presence of supporters in the programmes organised by him recently.
In the past two decades, Poudel has never taken sides even as two factions run parallel under Sushil Koirala and Deuba. And there are no lawmakers and Central Working Committee members who openly support Poudel’s bid.
Of late, Poudel has tried to influence party members by taking leadership of the NC’s Policy and Training Academy which is orienting cadres across the country.
However, Poudel has
built an image of a conservative leader who is often inflexible on the demands of Madhes, Dalits and marginalised communities. “There is an impression among the party leaders and cadres that Poudel is a leader with a conservative mindset and high-caste mentality, which might not be true,” said NC leader Gagan Thapa. According to him, Poudel is often perceived as one easily convinced by Koirala and Deuba at the eleventh hour—someone hard to be taken seriously.
This time around, Poudel went ahead with his plans even as President Koirala requested him not to go campaigning. After he became the prime minister in 2014, Koirala had assured Poudel of the acting president’s post. Koirala failed to honour the assurances, alienating Poudel.
According to leaders, Poudel does not have a relation of trust with senior leader Deuba either. When the party split in 2000, he had assured Deuba of defection but he betrayed the new leader eventually.
One of Poudel’s arguments for claiming the top party post is that he has not been tested like Koirala and Deuba. Koirala has been the general secretary, acting president, party president and the prime minister in the past one-and-a-half decades. Deuba is a three-time PM and led the erstwhile NC Democratic.
Poudel’s first choice is becoming the official candidate of the establishment faction but that is not easy. Koirala has been responding that he has no problems supporting Poudel but there should be consensus about it in the faction.
According to sources, Koirala has told Poudel that influential leaders like Krishna Prasad Sitaula, Prakash Man Singh and Ram Sharan Mahat should agree to his proposal. “Koirala himself will announce his candidacy at the last moment stating that the leaders failed to pick a consensus candidate,” said an NC leader.
Both Koirala and Deuba could try to convince Poudel to support them assuring him the Parliamentary Party leader’s position. But due to his age and other considerations, Poudel believes this is the right time to run for the party chief. Poudel lacks a strong political legacy like the Koirala family.
Though he has not got into a major controversy, he faces criticism lately of promoting nepotism in some political appointments.