Nepali Congress troika tests the traces, braces for August showdown

Nepali Congress 12th General Convention, August 2010


Each group has its own school of thought and followers but given the track record of skin-shedding, the possibilities of realignment before the Convention are very much on.





Nepali Congress is in a bind. Its General Convention is scheduled for August, and it has three leaders in the race for presidential supremacy, each at daggers drawn. The right-to-the-centre faction is led by stalwart Sher Bahadur Deuba, left-to-the-centre by central committee leader Narahari Acharya and the centrist faction by Acting President Sushil Koirala.

Each group has its own school of thought and followers but given the track record of skin-shedding, the possibilities of realignment before the Convention are very much on.


The Sushil faction seems the “strongest”, till date. Along with the Koiralas, leaders like Arjun Narsingh KC, Bimalendra Nidhi and Prakash Man Singh are in this group. This group harps on centrist sentiments of party members by treading a fine line between the two extremes: the right-to-the-centre and the left-to-the-centre. Supporters say that it strives to strike a balance between nationalism, democracy and socialism, the three pillars of party building put forward by BP Koirala in 1955.

Events buttress that party parliamentary party (PP) leader Ramchandra Poudel and Koirala have agreed “to work together.” Poudel received support from Sushil in the PP elections last year. Die-hard Koirala supporters are hoping the magic works.

Still, the task of rallying various forces appears daunting. Granted, this faction has leaders like Poudel, Singh, KC, not least the ambitious Koiralas themselves. But that also means stroking too many egos, assuaging various needs and making a departure from the sense of entitlement the Koiralas have thrived on.


Narahari’s group, with support from leaders like Pradip Giri and Deep Kumar Upadhyaya, has been advocating socialist politics with emphasis on “radical reform” within the party and governance structure.

This group is also known as the “republicans” and “reformists”.

Though Acharya is hailed for his integrity (alongside Singh, he was the only other NC candidate to win direct election in Kathmandu in the CA) and consistently championing the socialist school of thought in the party, he is no frontrunner. Opinion is split whether his group will contest the election or “compromise” to support some senior party leader.

Acharya’s group’s Achilles Heel is that it triggers academic debate but does not have the capacity to energize the party base. It has not penetrated the grassroots. Even so, none questions Narahari group for its “passion for reform” and this could attract reformist votes. “This faction may be the dark horse. The canvas is different since 1996. No surprise, if only 10 to 15 percent of the current CWC members are re-elected. If so, the status-quoists will be flushed away,” argued Ang Dendi Sherpa, a youth leader in NC.


To many, Deuba is Sushil’s bete noire. His group of leaders like Minendra Rijal, Prakash Sharan Mahat and Bal Krishna Khand, is more inclined to conservative politics with emphasis on “democracy and nationalism” rather than reformist agenda. It also holds historical ties with the traditional right, including the monarchists. Deuba, who worked under King Gyanendra’s patronage in 2005, enjoys strong ties with conservative forces.

Despite all, and even with a number of leaders backing it it will have to accommodate interest groups to emerge a potent functional force. Deuba may garner support from groups like those led by Govinda Raj Joshi and Khum Bahadur Khadka (known monarchists).

Though Deuba’s NC (D) represented a sizable chunk of the NC establishment (40 percent in the CWC) before the party’s merger with the NC in 2007, many NC (D) members have now joined the Sushil faction — as was evident during the PP election last year.

Still, this is a faction to contend with. “If there is a right wing upsurge in the country, and if the Joshi-Khadka group joins hands, chances are the Deuba faction will come out the winner,” says an analyst in NC.


Despite carrying separate identities and district politics, there are, however, possibilities of realignment before the August Convention.

As of now, NC leaders say, while there are high chances of a merger between the Narahari and Sushil factions, “two extremes” (Narahari and Deuba) are unlikely to budge and are expected go headlong into the battle. But to some, the Narahari faction does not exist as a “group” or “faction”, but only as a “school of thought”. Sushil and Deuba factions are factions, not the Narahari group.


Beyond these three groups, many inside the party regard the group led by former Home Ministers Joshi and Khadka, generally known as the party’s “right”, as a distinct faction too.

This group advocates Nepal’s Hindu identity, unitary system of government and at times even constitutional monarchy.  For now, it has fielded NC Vice President Kul Bahadur Gurung as presidential candidate. Crowed Gurung. “Have gun, will shoot. To hell with realignment.”

The Sindhupalchowk rally prelude to the decision over Tarun Dasta and the aborted aftermath has many guessing Deuba and Khadka are in cahoots. Khadka reiterated his aversion to secularism and federalism terming them “Maoist agenda”. Sushil’s hullabaloo ended their Tarun Dasta bid. It also drove another nail in the coffin of Deuba’s differences with the Koiralas.

(The article was originally published in The Kathmandu Post, June 15:

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