Will Nepali Congress make Bimalendra Nidhi its president?

Published On: August 25, 2020 10:54 AM NPT By: Randhir Chaudhary  | @randhirJNK

The upcoming General Convention provides Nepali Congress a rare opportunity to elect a Madhesi leader as the chief of the party.

The Nepali Congress has scheduled its General Convention for February, 2021 and a number of Congress leaders have projected themselves as likely candidates for the top post—the party president.

Vice President Bimalendra Nidhi, popularly known as Bimalji, who is considered to be a close confidant of President Sher Bahadur Deuba, recently met Deuba and communicated about his desire to stand for the party presidency. NC leaders from Madhesh are also excited about Nidhi's decision because they think that   a ‘Madheshi’ leader could win the NC Presidency.

Congress leaders have long been claiming that Madhesh is their main base and they have won the largest number of seats in parliament from Madhesh too. But cadres in Madhesh have always complained why the party fails to elect or nominate more central committee members from Madhesh. There is a feeling that NC leaders have treated Madhesh only as a vote bank.

Upon the proclamation of candidacy by Nidhi, I asked Jibnath Chaudhary, a prominent youth NC leader in Dhanusha if Nidhi will really contest for party president. “Bimalji must contest for the party presidency as he is capable for the presidency and also a natural claimant of the top post. If he misses this time, no Madheshi would ever get chance to become the party president,” he said.

Bimalendra Nidhi is the son of late Mahendra Narayan Nidhi who was a prominent personality in Nepali politics. He is also remembered as a Gandhain leader.

Senior Nidhi's commitment to the party and democracy was unwavering but he was not allowed to rise above the post of General Secretary in the party. Many in Madhesh believe that senior Nidhi was not allowed to rise to the rank of party president just because he was a Madheshi.

The same injustice should not happen to Bimalendra Nidhi. 

Though Madhesh is politically fertile land for the NC, Madheshi cadres are not happy with NC leadership because they think the leadership has not been able to truly address the concerns of Madhesh.

In 1958’s general election, Madhukar Babu Regmi had stood as a candidate from the Siraha constituency, which was a Madheshi populated area. Some Madheshis had asked legendary NC leader BP Koirala if it was fair for the party to field a Pahade candidate in overwhelmingly Madhesi constituency.  BP replied: “Let Regmi fight from here this time, and I promise you next time that I will make a Madheshi candidate win from a hill constituency.”

The promise has remained unfulfilled for the past 60 years.

Madhesis are watching what Congress will do this time because a prominent Madhesi leader has staked a claim on the topmost post of the party.

For Bimalendra Nidhi, his legacy comes to stand both as a boon and curse sometimes. His father inspired him.  Bimalendra devoted his energy in fighting for democracy and he is serving the nation as a NC politician. Yet many think that his accomplishments in the party are due to the legacy of his father. The truth is BP Koirala had nominated Bimalendra as the president of Nepal Students Union (NSU) in 1979. He was only 23.   He fulfilled the role of NSU presidency with perfection.

Since then he has not had to look back in his career.  He has fought for democracy in all the movements and has been arrested several times—especially during the 1990 and 2007 movements.

His decades-long experience in NC’s organization, starting from student politics, proximity with cadres and on the ground and clean image are his strengths.

Bimalendra Nidhi represents Madhesh but he cares about the whole country.

Any political party can be genuinely democratic only when it involves leaders of all the regions in its decision-making position and process. Parties play an important role in a democracy and they also shape the country’s values through their work. Parties help integrate individuals and groups into society, transmit social and political values from one generation to the next, and harmonise the interests of diverse communities by providing channels of communication within society.

After the NC finalized the date of the 14th Convention, Bimalendra Nidhi is the talk of the town, in Madhesh as well as elsewhere. Since the formation of Nepali Congress (Democratic) and its unification with mother party Nepali Congress later on, he has been the trusted leader of Sher Bahadur Deuba. Nidhi has revealed through the media that during the 13th Convention, Deuba had assured to support him in his bid to become party president in the 14th Convention. But in politics nothing can be taken for granted.   Now, Deuba himself is preparing to retain the presidency for himself. But without Nidhi’s support, it might not be so easy for him.  

Since the 2006 Madhesh Movement, NC has not been able to maintain the grip it had before in Madhesh.  Congress leaders like Mahantha Thakur, Jay Prakash Gupta and Bijaya Gachchadar defected but Nidhi did not change his conviction. He stood like the pillar of NC in Madhesh.

By electing Bimalendra Nidhi as the party chief, Nepali Congress can do justice to its base and correct the wrong thinking that a Madheshi leader cannot lead a party with Pahade majority.

Madheshi people have seen how NC forwarded Dr Rambaran Yadav as the first president of Nepal. But the ‘Rambaran’ card did not convince Madheshis very much because Dr Yadav was a ceremonial head.

The upcoming General Convention provides Nepali Congress a rare opportunity to elect a Madhesi leader as the chief of the party and prove that the party cares about Madhesh very much.

The author is a researcher associated with Peace Development and Research Center

Twitter: randhirJNK




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