Early federal elections only through national consensus

Kamal Dev Bhattarai

Kamal Dev Bhattarai

Early federal elections only through national consensus

It is normal for relationships among rival factions to sour during general conventions

Three months ago, Sher Bahadur Deuba defeated Shekhar Koirala to be reelected party President at the 14th Nepali Congress General Convention. After the convention, Koirala emerged as the leader of the party’s rival faction. Koirala has since adopted the policy of supporting Deuba on an issue-by-issue basis. Kamal Dev Bhattarai talked to Koirala to solicit his views on electrical alliance and intra-party rivalry.

How do you evaluate Deuba’s performance as party president in the past three months?

It is too early to evaluate his performance this early into his re-election as party president. In this period, we have handled a few issues. He made some nominations in the party. Obviously, questions were raised on the nominated names and appointment criteria. I have been pushing to define criteria for such appointments.

On the MCC compact negotiation, the party president involved all of us under his leadership and it produced a good result. He was successful in bringing major parties on board to ratify the compact, which is a plus point. To resolve issues related to the party’s sister organizations, we are still doing homework. There is no alternative to dissolving sister organizations and starting afresh.

There are talks of an electoral alliance with communist parties. Do you see that happening?

In local elections, we should not forge an alliance with communist parties. Nepali Congress is capable of winning on its own. If we forge an alliance, we will appear weak in front of voters.

Further, there is a lot of animosity between the Congress and Maoist cadres at the grassroots level. The wounds of the 10-year Maoist insurgency are yet to heal. Congress cadres at the local level were the prime targets of the Maoist party during the insurgency.

Our ideology, our orientation, and our behavior do not match those of communist parties. In the previous elections, we supported some candidates of other parties, but we did not get anything in return.

I do not think supporters of communist parties would vote for our candidates, as there is a gap between our schooling and theirs. There are some fundamental differences. For instance, Congress is a mass-based party, while communists are cadre-based. We should take this reality into account. Communists always see Nepali Congress as an enemy.

As for the current ruling coalition, it should continue till the elections and beyond, as the chances of a single party securing a majority are slim. But an electoral alliance is not beneficial for us.

There are also talks of deferring local elections and holding federal polls first.

We have already announced the date for local elections and they must be held on time. The Supreme Court has also ruled that local elections were announced as per the constitution. But if we plan on early federal elections, the main opposition, CPN-UML, and other major parties should be on board. The decision should be based on consensus. 

What is the state of factionalism in Nepali Congress, which had reached new heights at the time of the general convention?

It is normal for relationships among rival factions to sour during general conventions. We have already left the animosity behind. This was evident when the Nepali Congress presented a united front on the MCC compact. Our party moves ahead as one based on agendas. We will also stand united during the elections.

But there is a worry that disputes at the center have percolated to the grassroots, harming the party’s electoral prospects.

There is some discord among rival factions at the local level. I have been counseling leaders at the grassroots level to bury old differences emanating from the convention and maintain unity. Winning and losing are part of democratic process. Now, we have to fight against other parties. It will certainly take time, but I am hopeful that most grassroots-level differences can be resolved in the next two to three months.