Cost of deferral: How Nepali Congress’ failure to hold 14th General Convention on time is threatening its existence

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Kathmandu: Nepal is facing unprecedented political challenges at the moment. But nearly all the political entities that are supposed to overcome those challenges look powerless. They seem to be weak on moral grounds.

Nepali Congress, Nepal’s oldest democratic party, is no exception It has appeared to be indecisive, divided and ineffective on the political front, according to political analysts. 

The result is: neither the party has been able to counterpose the undemocratic and unconstitutional steps taken by ruling CPN-UML, nor has it been able to strengthen internal democratic exercises.

This reflects on Nepali Congress’ failure to decide on and hold the 14th General Convention. General convention is crucial for electing new leadership and office bearers from the local to the central level, thus also being a crucial exercise to strengthen the internal democracy.

Shift, shift and shift

When it comes to General Convention, Nepali Congress has had a history of top leaders blaming each other for deferring the biggest event of the party. 

During the 90s and early decades of 2000, Sher Bahadur Deuba used to point to Girija Prasad Koirala and question his intention of not holding elections on time. Now Deuba himself is at the helm and facing criticism for not being able to organize the General Convention on time. 

Earlier, the party had scheduled its 14th General Convention for February 19-22 in Kathmandu. That could not happen due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The party has rescheduled the General Convention for August 23 to August 26 in Kathmandu. The party has repeatedly shifted the dates of the 14th General Convention in 5 years after the 13th convention. 

Though the Convention has been scheduled for August, chances of that happening are slim, according to the political observers Nepal Live Today spoke to. 

What happens if it’s not held on time?

As per the Article 269 (4b) of the Constitution, political parties must provide for election of each of the office bearers of the party at the federal and provincial levels at least once in every five years. But in ‘special circumstances,’ the constitution allows the political party to hold such an election within six months in the event of failure to hold election of its office-bearers within five years.

However, if the party fails to conduct the General Assembly by September 5, the Election Commission can raise a question to the Nepali Congress, and can even say that “the registration of the party has been scrapped” as per the constitutional provision.

When it comes to General Convention, Nepali Congress has had a history of top leaders blaming each other for deferring the biggest event of the party. 

“The moral question has already been raised as Nepali Congress failed to conduct a general assembly in four years,” said Tara Nath Dahal, a press freedom fighter and political observer. 

As per the statute of the Nepali Congress, it should conduct a General Convention in four years, and can postpone for six months in unfavourable conditions.

“The constitution states the general election can be postponed for six months in the event of failure to hold the elections. So if Nepali Congress fails to hold elections again, there is a risk of the party being illegitimate,” said Dahal.  “Congress is the party that advocates for the constitution and democracy,” he said. “Questions will be raised if it moves away from the constitutional provisions.”

Nepali Congress leader Dhan Raj Gurung also fears that fate for the party. “We can utilize the alternative ways and processes to conduct the General Convention on time. But the main leadership of the party should first have the willingness to conduct the Convention,” he said. 

The alternative ways, according to him, are  to complete the Conventions of other levels of the party and so that the representatives can vote from their respective places for the General Convention. “There is no need to be gathered in Kathmandu.  Mahasamiti meeting can be conducted to discuss further issues,” he added.  

Gurung is worried that the leadership has not yet shown much interest even months after February. If the alternative methods are not used in an apt manner to conduct the General Convention on time, questions will be raised in the capacity of the leadership level, according to him. 

Bal Krishna Khand, chief whip of Nepali Congress, however, did not explain the current exercise of the party to conduct the General Convention on time. He said they are working on assuming that the current situation will be normal until the Convention time. Regarding the alternative process, he only said that “it is under discussion in the party.”