National

Bibeksheel Sajha, after promising hope and change, splits

- CHANDAN KUMAR MANDAL, Kathmandu

Jan 11, 2019-

Amid growing rift in the Bibeksheel Sajha Party leadership, the new group that gained respectable support in the elections last year as an alternative political force has split 18 months after unification.

Leaders of the erstwhile Bibeksheel Nepali Party have decided to form a new political party, walking away with 16 central members, including two Province 3 Assembly members, from the 38-strong central committee.

The disgruntled leaders approached the Election Commission on Friday to register the Bibeksheel Nepali Party, retaining the same name before the youth-based group had decided to merge with the Sajha Party in June 2017.

The new party will be led by Ujwal Thapa, who co-chaired the unified party along with Rabindra Mishra, and have familiar faces Ranju Darshana and two assembly members Ramesh Poudyal and Biraj Bhakta Shrestha as other leaders.

Party leaders said the split was due to the differences over "fundamental values" of the party, accusing Mishra’s leadership of running the party by ignoring the basic values.

Poudyal, who is also the spokesperson for the unified party, said Mishra overlooked the basic principles and was involved in decision-making without even consulting with co-chair Thapa.

“We believe in inclusive democracy, but Mishra had started acting intrusive, disrespecting the opinion of others and running the party single-handedly,” Poudyal told the Post, adding that they were left with no option but to leave.

Poudyal also said Mishra was trying to induct some leaders into the central committee without even consulting with other members.

“He was handpicking members into the central party, which was against our basic norms of participatory democracy and transparency. This was unacceptable to us,” Poudyal added.

The fresh rift in the leadership surfaced after Thapa submitted an 18-page review report on party operations in the past year.

In the report, which was prepared by Thapa after a nationwide tour, he had identified a total of seven problems that had affected overall governance of the party.

Thapa had said the party had fallen victim to extreme power centralisation despite the presence of excellent individual leaders who have failed to work collectively.

“Mishra could preside over the party meeting, but he had started organising party meetings and taking decisions without even talking to co-chair Thapa, let alone other members,” Poudyal added.

According to Poudyal, people told Thapa during his tour that the party was headed in the wrong direction. The rival faction claimed that the leadership did not even entertain the review report.

Despite the Post's attempts to reach him, Mishra was unavailable for comment.

The stage for unification between the two forces was set following their impressive run in the local level elections when they fielded their candidates for the mayoral post in Kathmandu Metropolitan City.

Then Sajha Party’s Kishore Thapa and Bibeksheel’s Ranju Darshana were fresh faces in Kathmandu’s mayoral race, with the former securing 18,492 votes and the latter garnering 23,439.

Youth leader Darshana said the party had reached this stage as it failed to achieve the goal set when both the parties had decided to come together.

“When the Bibeksheel was a separate party, we were a youth-based party. We then realised the need for having expertise and members with political experience. We had decided to unite but it didn’t go as expected,” Darshana told the Post.

Bibeksheel, led by Thapa, was founded five years ago with an aim to “change the country’s politics”. It officially made its forays into politics in 2014 with “pragmatism, reformism and progressivism” as its ideology. In the last few years, the party’s presence in social movements has been significant.

Sajha Party, on the other hand, was formed months before the local elections held in 2017. BBC journalist Mishra’s decision to quit his lucrative job to take a plunge into politics had grabbed media headlines.

The Bibeksheel Sajha Party, which had failed to win any seats under the first-past-the-post category if general elections despite the hype, got 144,442 votes under the Proportional Representation category in Province-3 and managed to win three assembly seats in the province.

The Bibeksheel Sajha Party said in statement that the party was surprised with some of its members’ decision to register as a new party.

However, Surya Raj Acharya, the party spokesperson, admitted the differences prevalent inside the party.

“There were differences of opinions regarding functioning of party, its character, formation and its objectives for some time which was already in the public domain,” Acharya said.

The spokesperson said Friday’s development is tragic for the party which was seen as the last hope and had immense credibility among Nepalese inside the country and out of the country.

Published: 11-01-2019 20:23

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