December 18, 2018 07:47 AM NPT
KATHMANDU, Dec 18: The top leadership of the main opposition party, Nepali Congress (NC), has found itself in a difficult position in the face of calls by an overwhelming majority of its Mahasamiti members for a Hindu state.
As of Monday, over 700 out of the total 1,600 Mahasamiti members have already signed a petition demanding that the party backtrack from its stance on secularism. They have maintained that the party should opt for “religious freedom” instead of secularism.
NC CWC member Shankar Bhandari, who initiated the signature campaign for Hindu state, said they plan to submit signatures to the party’s leadership during the ongoing Mahasamiti meeting on Tuesday. “The agenda of Hindu state has now become the property of the Nepali Congress. We hope the party will respond positively to the demand of the overwhelming number of Mahasamiti members,” said Bhandari, who is also a Mahasamiti member.
Bhandari argued that each country in the world has tried to protect its religion in different ways and that since Nepal is the origin of Hindu religion the country should do something about it. “There are conspiracies afoot against the Hindutwa that has existed in the country since millennia. We want our party to play a role to thwart such conspiracies,” he said.
A large number of the party’s influential leaders including former ministers and district presidents have signed the petition. They include former ministers Mohan Bahadur Basnet, Bhakta Bahadur Balayar and Chiranjivi Wagle, NC Chief Whip Pushpa Bhusal, former chief whip Laxman Ghimire, central member Kumar Khadka, and Raju Raj Joshi, who had contested the post of mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City. The presidents of a number of NC district working committees have also signed in favor of Hindu state.
NC spokesman Bishwa Prakash Sharma said it is too early to comment on the issue as the Mahasamiti members are yet to formally submit a petition in this respect in the party. “It is natural to have different views within the party. We respect these. The party will take an appropriate decision once the issue enters the Mahasamiti meeting,” he said.
NC General Secretary Dr Shashank Koirala has long been demanding a Hindu state. As the sentiment for Hindu state grows, Dr Koirala has had a following within the party in recent days.
Although the demand for Hindu state grows significantly, officer bearers of the party said there is little the party can do to change the secular provision in the constitution promulgated in 2015. “This requires amendment to the constitution and that is something the NC alone can do little about given that it has less than a majority in parliament,” said one office bearer.
The idea of the party revoking its position on secularism is also not likely to figure in the meeting for discussion despite the overwhelming demand, senior leaders said.
Meanwhile, the Mahasamiti meeting continued for a third consecutive day on Monday. The meeting will continue on Tuesday after the CWC meeting endorses a draft statute for the party and presents it in the Mahasamiti meeting for discussions.
As many as 31 Mahasamiti members spoke during the CWC meeting on Monday. Most of them demanded the ending of factionalism, nepotism and favoritism within the party.