Mahasamiti meet may be early run at new Congress leadership

- SANJEEV GIRI, Kathmandu

Nov 28, 2018-

The Mahasamiti meeting of the Nepali Congress scheduled for next month will be more of an exercise on new leadership of the opposition party as the general convention is only 15 months away.

Factional divide is widening in the party that faced a major electoral upset last year. Though the party has a number of issues including statute amendment, which needs to be endorsed by the upcoming Mahasamiti meet and will remain the central agenda, projection of leaders aspiring to run for the party presidency is likely to dominate the sidelines of the crucial meeting.

Party leaders and political analysts say that key leaders would want to utilise a big platform like the Mahasa-miti—second only to the general convention—to leave an impression among a large number of party delegates.

On Tuesday, the Koirala family that has been making serious efforts to regain

the family legacy by re-establishing itself in the country’s oldest party, hosted a lunch meeting for a faction of youth leaders who have been lobbying for leadership transfer to the next generation.

Prominent leaders including Gagan Thapa, Dhan Raj Gurung, Chandra Bhandari, Guru Raj Ghimire, Pradeep Poudel and Bal Bahadur KC attended the informal meeting. Senior leaders Arjun Narsingh KC and Ram Sharan Mahat were also among the participants.

Of all the leaders, presence of Krishna Prasad Sitaula, who leads a third faction in the party and who had a decisive role in electing Sher Bahadur Deuba as the party president last convention, has been noted as significant.

Besides, top Koirala leaders Shahank, Shekhar and Sujata are also seen to be forging unity to uphold the legacy of the family that led the party for much of its history. They have thrown their weight behind senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel, who has the backing also of Prakash Man Singh, KC and Mahat. “In a way, the charm of the Koirala family that has evolved as an institution had faded due to the three Koiralas’ failure to stand together. Such meetings have important indications,” political analyst Puranjan Acharya said.

One among Shekhar and Shashank seems to be gearing up to challenge Deuba in the upcoming party election, he added.

What holds the Koiralas together is not just the legacy of BP Koirala. Deuba’s authoritarian way of leading the party is expected to create a favourable situation for the Koiralas, who supported senior leader Paudel in the 13th general convention, to claim the top position. The perceived failure of Deuba to put up a strong opposition to the Nepal Communist Party (NCP)-led government is also likely to benefit the rival faction.

Party sources say Paudel will make every effort to fight the leadership election from the faction where Deuba is likely to be his competitor. Analyst Acharya argues that the chances of Poudel contesting the election might be high if the Koiralas do not feel confident of a win. Poudel’ position will be bolstered also if the Koiralas fail to choose between Shekhar and Shashank but stay united to defeat Deuba nonetheless.

Deuba, who was defeated by Girija Prasad Koirala and Sushil Koirala in the 11th and 12th general conventions, respectively, had a relatively easy win against Poudel.

“Getting a unanimous candidate, however, will be difficult for the Koiralas,” Acharya said. For the rival faction in the NC where leaders like Singh and Mahat also eye the

leadership position, managing aspirations is likely to be another major challenge.

In a recent interview with the Post, Mahat said that the establishment faction will strive to tighten its grip on the party organisation at the Mahasamiti while the rival faction will be pushing the leadership to promote unity.

Amid growing polarisation, Mahat said the general convention might be centred on defeating Deuba than elevating any particular candidate to the top post, while also voicing doubt if the Mahasamiti would meet on schedule at all.

Leaders close to Deuba, however, say the tussle does not worry them as the general convention is long away. “There aren’t people just against Deuba. There are those questioning the authority of the Koiralas as well,” the leader said, projecting Deuba as the obvious candidate of the establishment faction in the party election.

Amid the factional tussle, according to leaders, Sitaula’s move will be interesting to watch.

Published: 28-11-2018 07:25

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