Nepali Congress (NC) President Sher Bahadur Deuba has become the Prime Minister of the coalition government under Article 76 (5) of the Constitution.
NC has been preparing for its 14th general convention that has to be held mandatorily within a couple of months. While the preparation for the Convention is going on, the party is stuck in the active membership distribution dispute.
NC leaders agree to the fact that there are some problems in the distribution of the membership. In this context, many leaders from Saptari, Bara and Dhanusha districts have been protesting at the party’s central office in Sanepa, Lalitpur. Some leaders have started a hunger strike as well.
Dr. Amaresh Kumar Singh, who was elected from Saptari, Constituency 4, has recently resigned from the post of lawmaker citing the leadership’s ‘inability’ to address membership dispute in the party. He has serious disagreements over the distribution, renewal, and adjustment of active membership of the party.
Leader Singh has accused the party’s Vice President Bimalendra Nidhi of failing to include old and young “friends” who are loyal, dynamic, and dedicated to the party, and of arbitrarily distributing active membership.
As the General Convention draws near, there are plenty of people who see Singh’s resignation as a bargaining chip. Here are excerpts of the conversation Khabahub’s Tejendra Kafle had with Dr. Singh recently:
You have submitted your resignation from the Member of Parliament. Rather than submitting it to the Speaker at the House of Representatives, why did you submit it to the party President?
I did not resign for any other reason related to the functioning of the parliamentary system. That is why I did not submit my resignation to the Speaker. I am a disciplined cadre of the party. I won the parliamentary seat from Nepali Congress. My grievance is also related to the party functioning, especially, the haphazard distribution and renewal of active membership. That’s why I submitted my resignation to the party President.
Does this give an impression that your dissatisfaction is related to the internal structure of NC?
I have resigned in the face of the General Convention for the right direction and leadership in the internal structure of NC. Our ethics, rationale and ideological aspects — once the backbone of the party — are declining. My struggle is directed towards the course correction of the party and the politics.
Who do you think is responsible for this deviation?
There are many who are to blame for the deviation in the party but my concern now is related to Madhesh. NC cannot stand a strong foothold in Madhesh.
After Ram Baran Yadav withdrew from active politics completing his term in office as the President, and Mahanta Thakur left the party in 2008, Bimalendra Nidhi was the only leader from the Madheshi community in the party. But as it happened, with his position increasing in the party, the party’s position declined in Madhesh.
It is time to explore the cause behind it. Sadly, be it in the Madhesh or the entire country, NC today is occupied by non-political people like traders and smugglers who neither love the country nor the people.
When I say so, I do not mean the traders are bad. My objection is to the trend of influencing politics through wrong means. Politics is getting corrupted of late. So my campaign in the party is related to cleansing it.
So your resignation is a bargaining point in the General Convention?
No, no! Not a bargaining point. It is to guide all the party cadres towards the ideological, political, and economic discussions before the general convention.
The cadres and the leaders should be clear about the future policy of our party, the direction it has to take in the coming days. The leadership should be according to the policy.
The very soul of the party is discussion, an ideological debate. We have to discuss the party’s foreign policy, the agenda for socio-economic transformation, and much more. Our party has to be inclusive and youth-friendly. The party should cherish diversity.
So, are you looking for an alternative to Nidhi in Madhesh?
Not only because I won the election and he lost, but I believe that I will work to unite Madhesh and the party. NC should speak the voice of Madhesh and the voice of democracy.
It is obvious that without a strong democratic party, the rights of Madhesh cannot be attained. Only a democratic party can address the issue of Madheshi people, the issue of inclusion, the issue of citizenship and the issue of economic development.
For that, the right leadership in Madhesh is a most. I believe that I understand Madhesh well. I am rooted to Madhesh. I have also won the election three times. That’s why I know the diversity, the structure, and the campaign.
Are you presenting yourself as an alternative to Nidhi in Madhesh?
I do not want to say anything about that. It is up to the NC cadres and the people to decide. People have already decided and given their verdict through the election.
The date of the 14th General Convention is less than a month away. Meanwhile, when you submitted your resignation, the President assured that he would fulfill the demand. How do you want it to be addressed?
My demand is in the letter of resignation. We want rule of law both in politics and in our party as well. The disputes related to active membership should be settled based on party constitution, statutes, directives and regulations. No dictatorship or the capturing of the committees! No one can capture the party by abusing his influence.
I believe that it is in the interest of the party and the President will take this decision soon as it is in the best interest of the party. If not, I will meet the President again and talk about it.
The resignation letter uses a sentence — only a dynamic party with a healthy internal life solves the problem. What do you mean by it? Is the party inactive now?
That’s right. I have not resigned swayed away by any emotion or passion or frustration. Now, there should be a debate on what kind of leadership should be in NC, someone who should be given the responsibility of the party. There should be a debate on the level of transparency needed in the party.
The party is now running on a whim, running on a daily schedule. The party has to make a plan for what kind of Nepal it will build in the long run, in 25 years, in 50 years!
Where are we trying to take the country and the people? Where are we trying to take the development and prosperity of the country? The destination should be clear.
The party is just a means to that end. We should give confidence and trust to the people. We should be in the position to announce and ensure that only NC can nurture democracy in the country. It is only NC that can be truly inclusive, and transform the country economically and socially ending all forms of discrimination.
Who is the leader who can give that confidence, that message in the entire NC circle now?
The leadership now will have a better place. Let’s not name anyone right now. Whoever can raise and address these issues properly, I think, that person will be in leadership now. A person with the ideological and political base of the party and a clean and capable image should come to the leadership.
Your words indicate that the current leadership is incompetent. So, is it time to find an alternative to President Deuba in the forthcoming General Convention?
No, that’s up to the party cadres. I have only put forward the theoretical and ideological issues among the cadres. It is just to open the eyes of the cadres.
President Deuba, senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel and some other leaders are in the race for the party President. Are you going to support the continuity of the current leadership or going for the alternative?
I believe that our party should arrange the provision of age limits for the party leadership. The party cannot be made strong and dynamic by excluding dynamic and energetic groups. I want to make a healthy and dynamic party.
Politics is dynamic, not static. Therefore, it is time to revive BP Koirala in NC now. It is high time that we raised the debate on doctrine and integrity in the party.
Now we have a lot to do and show to the Nepali people. We accomplished political change but the social and economic changes, the vital parts of the substantive change are missing. NC has to be the center of trust for the youth!
This is a long-term plan. With the general convention at doorsteps, what are your plans for it?
Let me make it clear that the general convention will not be held at the announced time. There is not enough time for it.
Will it not make the party void?
We are currently searching for a way out. Discussions are going on within the party, there will be some solutions for it. It takes at least 53 days to complete the convention.
The procedure for the convention can be started only after 12 days of submitting the final list of active members. It is clear that it still takes 5-7 days to decide on active membership.
Party leaders and cadres are on hunger strike at the party’s central office premises. So, I am skeptical about the general convention schedule.
CPN-UML Vice-Chairman Bhim Rawal and you tendered resignation from the post of a lawmaker. He has recently withdrawn his resignation. Have you also thought of withdrawing yours?
There is a substantive difference in the purpose and procedure of resignation between my resignation and UML Vice-Chairman Bhim Rawal’s.
He resigned to avoid giving a vote of confidence against PM Deuba. As one of the signatories in the opposition alliance against erstwhile PM KP Oli, and as a signatory in the petition in the court Rawal had a moral obligation to give the vote of confidence; on the other hand, the UML’s official decision was not to give a vote of confidence. He resigned for face-saving.
My resignation is not in the parliament, it is within the party. This is to end the current distortion and to strengthen the party ideologically and organizationally. So, I said the purpose and procedure differ in our resignations.
Isn’t your resignation a gesture of non-cooperation to the government?
No, I fully support the government. It is the responsibility of the present government to rectify the shortcomings of the previous government, guarantee good governance to the people and make the people’s daily life easier.
People need vaccines. The agenda of development is in shadow for a long time. The development was confined to ‘virtual inauguration and conferences’. Youths need employment. The coronavirus crushed economy is waiting for revival. Therefore, the party and the government are connected issues.
If I had not cooperated with the party and the government, I would have resigned before the voting. This party is made up of the sacrifices, penances, and contributions of millions of people.
Therefore, no one has the right to harm the party. The party should not be made weak. I have resigned expressing a similar concern.
When the party is strong, the government also becomes strong. The party forms the government. The party is to guide and monitor the government. Coincidentally, our party’s President is the prime minister, so he deserves full support to fulfill both responsibilities.
If we look at the history of the Congress, we find many instances of tendering resignation first and withdrawing it after getting a certain post. How can you say that it will not be so in your case?
No, it is not a matter of position. I have brought this issue into the theoretical discussion to strengthen the party. I have assured both the party cadres and the people that I have taken this step for their bright future.
Without clean and capable leadership, the future of the people will be even darker. Therefore, carrying the dream of a bright future, I have taken this step forward.