Factional bickering has resurfaced in the main opposition Nepali Congress (NC).
NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba had resolved the intra-party dispute at the end of January without bringing the party general convention forward as demanded by rivals placating them with some positions in the sister organization Nepal Students Union (NSU). But the dispute has resurfaced over appointment in party departments.
Deuba appointed coordinators of 13 committees on Saturday when senior leader Ram Chandra Paudel, General Secretary Shashank Koirala and Treasurer Sita Devi Yadav were in Birgunj.
Deuba made appointments in the important party departments taking Krishna Prasad Sitaula, who is running a separate faction, in confidence after Paudel refused to provide names for appointments in the departments.
He made appointments keeping 12 important departments including organization, publicity and contact offices abroad with his faction, and giving labor and trade union department to Shiva Prasad Humagai of Sitaula faction.
Deuba also appointed Gopal Prasad Basnet and Sudheer Shiwakoti, both from Sitaula's home district Jhapa, as invited central committee members to placate Sitaula faction.
"President Deuba called senior leader Paudel Friday asking for names of friends to be appointed in the departments but Paudel refused to oblige," a central committee member said.
The member added that Deuba gave one department to Sitaula faction and kept 12 with his after Paudel's refusal.
Deuba, who should have formed the departments within two months of assuming leadership of the party, in this way has completed the departments four years after the general convention with just three days of his original term remaining.
Senior leader Paudel had agreed that the next general convention can be held in February 2021 while Deuba agreed to bring district elections forward after Deuba agreed to give some posts in the NSU to the Paudel faction in January.
There was dispute inside the party after Deuba unilaterally gave himself a one-year term extension and announced date for the next general convention.
Deuba, whose four-year term expires in March 2020, got his term extended through the central committee meeting on December 27 using the extension provision of the party statute. His term will now expire on March 3, 2021. The meeting also decided to hold the next general convention from February 19-22, 2021.
The meeting extended the term of Nepal Tarun Dal led by Jeet Jung Basnet by six months. It also increased the number of departments to 47 from 28 and suspended clause 14 related to party membership effective only until the general convention.
The major bone of contention was dispute in the party after the central committee suspended the clause that allowed active membership only a year after receiving general membership, and ruled that the central committee can grant active membership at any time it deems appropriate.
The factions of Paudel and Sitaula believed that the clause has been suspended to ensure that Deuba faction emerge victorious in the general convention as only active members can participate in party elections.
The Paudel and Sitaula factions were demanding that the general convention be held by the end of 2020. They had been boycotting all central committee meetings after Deuba presented proposals including increasing the number of party departments to 51 from 28, and completing Nepal Tarun Dal, Nepal Students Union among others to the central committee meeting for discussion on December 12, 2019.
They started attending the meetings after Deuba seemed positive to bring the district election forward and form a committee to probe active membership.
But the main reason for the truce seems to be sharing of spoils in the NSU that was in turmoil ever since Deuba proposed to hand over the reigns of the student wing to 50-year-old Rajeev Dhungana of Sunsari despite the NC central committee passing a statute that imposed an age-bar of 32 years for NSU office-bearers.
The Paudel and Sitaula factions accepted Dhungana as NSU president after Deuba offered to give vice-president and general secretary to the rival factions.