Nepali Congress leaders who have ganged up on party president Sher Bahadur Deuba join hands at a function in Kathmandu on Monday. (Photo courtesy: UP Lamichhane/Facebook)
KATHMANDU, June 11: As dissatisfaction mounts within the party over the working style of its top leadership, dissident leaders of the Nepali Congress (NC) have begun regrouping to challenge party President Sher Bahadur Deuba.
NC senior leaders Krishna Prasad Sitaula, Arjun Narsingh KC and Gagan Thapa have now joined the rival faction led by Ram Chandra Paudel. While Sitaula and Thapa contested the post of president and general secretary respectively from a third front within the party, KC contested the post of general secretary as a running mate of Deuba during the 13th general convention held in March, 2016.
Deuba, Paudel and Sitaula had all three contested the post of party president. But as none of them could secure the minimum 50 percent vote required to be elected even after two rounds of voting, Sitaula opted out and extended his support to Deuba. Senior leader KC, who decided to join the Deuba faction on the eve of the general convention after quitting the Paudel-led faction, has returned to the rival faction.
Sitaula, KC and Thapa were seen together with Ram Chandra Paudel, Prakash Man Singh, Nabindra Raj Joshi, Pradip Paudel and Kalyan Gurung, among other leaders from the rival faction, during a function organized by the party’s sister organization, Nepal Students Union Kathmandu District Working Committee, in the capital on Monday. The senior leaders present at the function stood up at the dais linking their raised hands in a message of solidarity.
Party insiders said there has been growing dissatisfaction with Deuba after the NC suffered its humiliating defeat in the recent local, parliamentary and provincial assembly polls. Although rival faction leaders exerted pressure on him to take responsibility for the defeat, Deuba had declined to do so at the Central Working Committee (CWC) convened to take stock of the defeat.
The differences between the establishment and rival factions increased after Deuba unilaterally nominated the vice president, general secretary and joint general secretary and Central Working Committee (CWC) members. Although the rival faction had demanded at least a post of joint general secretary for themselves, Deuba declined to oblige.
Addressing the student union function Monday, NC leader Sitaula said that favoritism will no long have a place in the NC. Arguing that there is no alternative to running the party in a new style, Sitaula said, “There is only limited responsibility for those in power. The opposition party has unlimited responsibilities.”
On the occasion, youth leader Thapa said the current working style of the party president will never take the party back to its glory days. “The party should now be ushered to a new place. It is not possible to do this under a leadership that is seeking to return the party to the same old place,” he said. This was a reference to Deuba’s remark that he would retire only after restoring the party to its old strength.
Leaders speaking on the occasion highlighted the need to become united in order to reform the party and do away with its current leadership. The unity shown by Paudel, Sitaula and KC, among others, comes at a time when both the establishment and rival factions are striving to strengthen their positions in the upcoming general conventions of various sister organizations, including the Trade Union Congress.
While NC President Deuba, Vice President Bimalendra Nidhi, General Secretary Purna Bahadur Khadka and Gyanendra Bahadur Karki are lobbying hard to turn the outcome of the Trade Union convention in their favor, senior leaders Paudel, KC, Sitaula and Shekhar Koirala from the rival faction are working equally hard to challenge the establishment side. The establishment faction is already on the defensive as the rivals have prevailed in the general conventions of the sister organizations Nepal Teachers Union, Nepal Engineers Association and the Civil Servants Association.