As legitimacy question looms, Nepali Congress braces for General Convention, but modality yet to be finalized

Nishan Khatiwada

  • Read Time 4 min.

Kathmandu: After shifting the date several times, Nepali Congress, Nepal’s oldest democratic party, has finally scheduled its 14th General Convention for September 1-4 later this year.

According to the party’s constitution, the General Convention should be held every four years, and as such the 14th Convention should have taken place by March last year–four years after the 13th Convention which was held in March, 2016. 

But the party leadership did not appear to accord priority to that provision, and seemed to lean on the provision of exception that allows extending the Convention date by a year.  The extension, however, has to be justified on the grounds of special circumstance, according to the party statute.

The party had proposed the Convention for March 2021, which was impeded by the outbreak of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nepali Congress delayed the process of renewing, updating and finalizing active membership, stalled other necessary preparations and kept on changing the dates.

The constitution of the country has given breathing space to the political party in terms of  holding the General Convention. Article 269 of the constitution allows “a political party to hold such election within six months in the event of failure to hold election of its office-bearers within five years because of a special circumstance.”  The ‘six months’ extension will end by mid-September for Nepali Congress. Thus this seems to be the last chance for the party to save its legitimacy.

The clock is ticking

The scheduled date of the Convention is only two months away but Nepali Congress does not seem to be hastening up the process and preparation for it. Instead, the party is mired in factional politics. The second wave of the pandemic is yet to be abetted but the modality of the Convention is still not finalized. 

However, all the Nepali Congress leaders Nepal Live Today spoke to raised the urgency to hold the 14th General Convention in September to save the legitimacy of the party.   

Bal Krishna Khand, chief whip of the party, said there has been progress in the preparatory works such as updating of active memberships in local levels. “Of late, the renewal of the active memberships has been completed. Regarding the new active membership, districts have sent the recommendation,” he said. 

Any flaws with regard to active membership renewal will be sorted out by the investigation committee of the party, according to him. After that, the active members will become the voters in the ward level election. 

“By mid-July, all details of active members will be collected and updated,” he said.

Khand ascribed the pandemic and lockdown as the reasons behind the delay in preparation and active membership renewal. “However, the new schedule gives us time to complete all the pending works and preparation so that the Convention can be  held on the scheduled date,” he said.

The scheduled date of the Convention is only two months away but Nepali Congress does not seem to be hastening up the process and preparation for it. Instead, the party is mired in factional politics.

Gyanendra Bahadur Karki,  Central Committee member of the party, said the preparation is going on at a rapid pace. “We have to conduct the General Convention on time at any cost,” he said, adding that the party is managing and making necessary preparations.

Dhan Raj Gurung, another NC leader, while talking to Nepal Live Today early this month, also shared the fear that the legitimacy will be vulnerable if the General Convention is not held on time. 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, he had said. 

Prakash Man Singh, a prominent leader and former General Secretary, for his part, also agrees that failure to hold the Convention on time will imperil the legitimacy of the Nepali Congress. “We cannot allow the legitimacy of the party to be questioned. We are obliged by the Constitution of Nepal and the constitution of the party to hold the Convention on the scheduled date,” he said.

However, holding the General Convention on time requires fulfilling the process of active membership in the local levels on time. “When the process of active members gets completed, we can conduct the General Convention by maintaining the safety and health protocols. We have the election committee to discuss and finalize the modality of the Convention,” he said.

Who will be the president?

Meanwhile, many leaders have shown their interest to fight for the top post of the party. While the incumbent President Sher Bahadur Deuba has announced that he would run  for the post again, other top leaders such as Dr Shasank Koirala, Dr Shekhar Koirala, Krishna Sitaula, Prakash Man Singh, Ram Chandra Poudel and Bimalendra Nidhi have also expressed their interests.

On Monday, Bimalendra Nidhi in a meeting with young generation leaders Chandra Bhandari, Dhan Raj Gurung, Gagan Thapa, Pradeep Poudel and others, said he would vie for the party’s top post. The youth leaders also informed Nidhi that the older generation cannot run the party properly and Sher Bahadur Deuba and Ram Chandra Poudel should be ready to transfer leadership.

On the other hand, the central committee members close to Sher Bahadur Deuba have suggested to Deuba that it will be even easier for him to become President this time. 

Other NC leaders are also planning in their own way.

Singh considers himself as a natural candidate as he has grassroots experience working in the party. “The President is the top post and is the face of the party. I think of myself as a natural candidate, based on my grassroots experience. I strongly believe that I can put my experience into action,” he further said.

He argues that the leadership elected by the 13th General Convention failed to perform effectively as per the party’s constitution. He takes the inability of the party to conduct the General Convention after four years and even a year added to this as a proof of this. “Our present leadership did not do what they had to do and kept on changing the dates time and again,” he said.

Khand, on the other hand, argues that presidents in every level in the party can serve for two consecutive terms. 

Sher Bahadur Deuba completed the first term. He is staking claim on the second term as well and has been wooing the party members, claiming that he will work to make NC stronger in his second term.

“Deuba has already served for one term. As such he has experience. Others may agree to his second term. They can take other responsible positions based on their capacity and experience,” said Khand. “The matter is under discussion at the moment.”