After a lengthy delay, the ruling Nepali Congress (NC), which will be holding its general convention in November this year, kicked off its ward-level convention in many districts. The ruling party, which has around 800,000 active members, had faced uncertainties over the convention owing to disputes over the distribution of active membership, which had in the past disturbed the scheduled convention in the wards of the various election constituencies. The ward-level convention became possible after the party resolved the membership dispute in the 56 districts and dispute resolution is underway in the remaining 21 districts.
Like all political parties in the country, the NC has been bound by the constitution to hold its general convention by this year. If it had failed to do so, the party might have confronted many problems, including the revocation of its registration. Because of this lingering fear, the party has no option but to kick-start its ward-level convention even during such a testing time when the coronavirus pandemic has gripped the nation. The ward-level convention is regarded as the precursor of the constituency and then a national level convention that will be participated in by Mahasamiti members, who will be elected by the ward members of each constituency. The November convention will be a major event for the party as it will elect its supreme decision-making body, the central working committee. The elected CWC will then set the future course of the party that will have broader implications for national politics.
Of late, the party has been marred by factional divides. Leaders have been divided over the issue of active members, CWC and party positions and the ministerial berths following the formation of the new government under the party president Sher Bahadur Deuba. A group of leaders grouped under senior leader Ram Chandra Paudel has been mulling to file candidacy to the different positions in general elections to give the challenge to Deuba who is expected to contest the party president's position. The rival group is yet to decide on the name of leaders to be fielded. However, this time, the incumbent president is likely to face a tough challenge from a candidate that enjoys backing from the Paudel group.
Competition among leaders for coveted party positions is a natural thing. A party like NC that boasts of its leadership roles in many democratic movements in the nation must ensure that competition among the leaders for the party position would be decent and healthy. With the credentials of being a democratic party, it must aspire to hold its general convention in the most transparent manner in which leaders should be elected through a democratic voting process. All types of the party conventions - be it held in ward, constituency, district or national level - should be made a watershed event that should set a benchmark for every other party, especially those that have not held their elections in true sense. Many of the big parties have been accused of electing their leaders for party positions in closed-doors meeting without giving common workers the right to cast their votes. This should not happen when the NC’s various organs hold elections to elect their leaders.