Nepali Congress, the oldest democratic party, is gearing up for its 14th General Convention slated to begin on December 10. As the convention nears, alliances are being formed and broken. With leaders more concerned with acquiring power, opportunity, and position than with embracing clear ideology and strategy, the public’s eyes are on who will lead the oldest democratic party for the next term.
What is lacking in the party is clear agendas and policies, say party insiders and analysts. How the ‘democratic’ party is going to prove itself better than others amid the political crisis the country is facing is unclear. Party leaders are putting their efforts into winning, without any better agendas and goals in their hands.
The aspirants for the party’s top post, until now, are Sher Bahadur Deuba and Bimalendra Nidhi from the establishment camp. From the opposition camp, many aspirants are in the fray—Prakash Man Singh, Dr Shashank Koirala, Dr Shekhar Koirala, and Ram Chandra Poudel.
Though the so-called opposition camp is trying to settle on a common candidate, their efforts so far have gone in vain, as all the aforementioned leaders are adamant about their candidacies. They all know the significance of a strong and undivided anti-Deuba alliance, but no one appears to be ready to sacrifice to consolidate the camp.
According to party insiders, as many as five leaders are vying for the vice-chairship and around eight leaders for the party’s general secretary.
How the ‘democratic’ party is going to prove itself better than others in a political crisis the country is facing is unclear.
Regarding the high number of candidates for the limited position, Man Bahadur Bishwakarma, a former minister and incumbent lawmaker, said that even a general member can vie for the party’s top post, as there is no restriction in the party. “Unlike communist parties, we are an open party,” he said.
As of now, the party has conducted 61 district conventions, in which 32 district presidential positions went to the Sher Bahadur Deuba camp, 27 to Ram Chandra Poudel camp, and two to the Krishna Prasad Sitaula camp.
The remaining district conventions will be conducted only after the central General Convention, according to the Central Election Committee of the party. The Province convention has already begun.
Around 4500 representatives will take part in the General Convention.
The General Convention representatives hold the right to select the leadership of the party. “They will calculate and assess who can lead the party to the right path, fight the problems, and save the democracy,” Bishwakarma said. “We must welcome their selection, that’s the people’s mandate.”
Deuba emerging stronger
Political analysts and observers say that the Deuba camp is emerging stronger, especially because his opponents are mired in factionalization and lack strong leadership.
The politics of opportunism is a reality in today’s Nepali Congress. There is a fear prevalent in the party that the leaders will cross the floor for political adjustment to acquire power and position. Such fear is empowering Deuba against the divided opposition camp.
“It seems as if Deuba has consolidated his position this time. The opposition faction lacks a strong leader and is divided into factions,” said Geja Sharma Wagle, a political analyst.
In the Deuba camp, Deuba holds a strong position and the opposition camp is still unable to decide on their candidates. “Deuba will benefit if the opposition faction remains factionalized and the disagreement exists there,” Wagle added.
According to analysts and leaders Nepal Live Today talked to, Deuba is using the strategy of taking maximum advantage from the division within the opposite faction.
Agendas and policies sidelined
Analysts and even some NC leaders agree that the leadership is only focused on getting into power. No one has reviewed the mistakes of the party. No one has reviewed the role of the Nepali Congress as an opposition and the ruling party.
Political analysts and observers see the Deuba camp strong as the opposition camp is mired in factionalization and lacks strong leadership.
Bishwakarma agrees that the NC leadership is, as of now, only focused on election and leadership selection and no significant attention has been paid toward agendas and policies. He is, however, optimistic that the leadership will bring plans and agendas before the election. “I am confident that the representatives will select the leadership on the basis of agendas and policies brought by the candidates sooner or later.”
Wagle also says that the General Convention, till now, is focused only on leadership selection, ignoring policies and agendas. Congress is traditionally a leadership-oriented party. If the party fully focuses on leadership selection ignoring policies, the convention will further stimulate the traditional approach of the party, he said.
Nepali Congress has already decided to hold the Policy General Convention and Leadership General Convention separately. And Wagle is optimistic regarding the decision. “That is a new practice for NC. Conducting the Policy Convention for extensive and comprehensive discussions on party policies would be a positive approach,” he added.