FNCCI ELECTION: Dhakal’s Soft Approach

Chandra Prasad Dhakal has filed his nomination for the post of Senior Vice President of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), along with his panel, contesting with Kishore Pradhan led panel. With his reconciliatory approach, Dhakal is reaching wider voters

Nov. 11, 2020, 11:51 a.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL. 14 No. 06, November 06, 2020 ( Kartik 21, 2077) Publisher: Keshab Prasad Poudel Online Register Number: DOI 584/074-75

No wisdom lies in fighting, since he who fights is a fool; the wise discover in wise books, what course is wise and right. And a wise book in course, that is not violent delight. Spoke to the truth though it is harsh it be. Blarney is the true enemy.

As Panchantantra says no wisdom lies in fighting and modesty is the mantra to win any battle, Dhakal, a candidate for senior vice president of FNCCI, is using the most decent words for votes.

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Although he has many reasons to criticize his near and dear colleagues, including the incumbent president and forthcoming president, who are backing his rival, Dhakal is using his wisdom to fight as a wise man.

Since his announcement of candidacy for senior vice president a year ago, renowned and rising industrialist Chandra Dhakal has been following the conciliatory and modest tones.

Born in Baglung district, a remote part of Nepal, Dhakal entered into the business sector through a small cold drink store. To reach the current top place with investment in recreation, banking, trading and hotel industries, Dhakal has passed through several stages.

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In his one-year campaign, Dhakal, chairperson of IME Group, has been focusing on one agenda, that is, to safeguard the role of the private sector in economic development and open safe and secure space to all. Following the spread of COVID-19 and months of a shutdown, Nepal’s economy has shrunk and the private sector is facing a harsh situation.

Having had long experiences with ups and downs, Dhakal has developed a vision and policy to deal with crises. Dhakal’s experiences will be crucial to the next president Shekhar Golchha.

Unlike other industrialists in FNCCI, including the chair Shekhar Golchha, who has inherited the well-established business from their parents, Dhakal is a self-made man and his entire achievement is thanks to his own hard work and vision.

Dhakal, a newcomer and self-made businessman from western hills, is a humble and simple person with a conciliatory and accommodating approach. However, Kathmandu Valley-based traditional business elite, who have hegemony in FNCCI politics, see him as a big threat.

As a down-to-earth person, Dhakal has rarely shown any sign of domination and self-ego while dealing with his colleagues. He always answers his mobile phone whenever someone gives him a ring. This is a true character of Dhakal and many people like him.

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Despite so many nice things, his one-time colleagues have supported his rival, violating a gentlemen agreement to allow Dhakal to get elected as a senior vice president unanimously. Instead, they promoted Kishore Pradhan, a good person with industrial bureaucracy and with no investment in industry, as their candidate.

With senior vice president Pradhan, Shekhar Golchha personally might hold the view that he will have better command and freedom to take FNCCI in his own direction. Having better quality, exposure and contact at all levels, Dhakal will be a bigger asset to Golchha and FNCCI at the present economic crisis.

Golchha, who received strong backing from Dhakal during the crisis last time when a group proposed to amend the FNCCI constitution canceling the present system to promote senior vice president as president, shifted his side for individual reason.

With his simple and humble style, banker Dhakal, who is very popular at district and municipal levels, has made many friends from the top to the bottom. However, Golchha and his group chose Pradhan as their teammate.

Despite open betrayal by Golchha and President Bhawani Rana, Dhakal does not say any harsh word against them. Dhakal believes that Golchha’s tenure as a president will take a new lead including the elections of his panel.

“Shekhar Jee is a very capable and strong person. He deserves to lead FNCCI. I would like to say that our team will be an asset to him. Our team believes in teamwork rather than individually, or on personal likes or dislikes rather than that of the institution,” said Dhakal, in a reconciliatory tone.

Dhakal went to file his nomination at FNCCI with his team showing neutrality. However, Pradhan announced his candidacy in the presence of the current president of FNCCI Rana and senior Vice president Golchha showing his support base.

Pradhan Panel includes Anjan Shrestha (Vice President Commodities), Dinesh Shrestha (Vice President District and Municipality) and Saurabh Jyoti (vice president Associates).

Dhakal’s panel includes Umesh Lal Shrestha (vice President Commodities), Gunanidhi Tiwari (Vice President District and Municipalities) and Ramchandra Shanghai (Vice President Associates).

History of Betrayal

Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) has a history of factionalism, conspiracy and betrayal. A small core of business elites manipulates the FNCCI elections. Although the group has weakened now, it can still be decisive.

With his charismatic and capable leadership, Binod Chaudhary had made great contributions to enhance and institutionalize the FNCCI as a president.

From construction of the modern building to enhancing the isolated FNCCI to world level institution, establishing relations with different bilateral chambers and commerce organizations from all around the world, Forbes Billionaire, along with his very committed and dedicated team, spared no time to make FNCCI a respected organization abroad and within the country.

However, Chaudhary, who won formidable votes in the first tenure, was denied the second term. He had lost the second term with Padma Jyoti. From then on, the decline of FNCCI started. Having seen no chance to reform FNCCI, Chaudhary along with his team registered Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI).

Along with Chaudhary, a large number of renowned figures of Nepal’s industrial sector like Narendra Kumar Basnet, Bijaya Shah, Hari Bhakta Sharma and late Tek Chandra Pokharel sided with Chaudhary to set up CNI.

With the departure of Chaudhary and completion of tenure of Jyoti, FNCCI’s decline began. Pradeep Kumar Shrestha had made certain efforts during his tenure but it did not work.

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Having completely backed Suraj Vaidya to elect him as a president, owner of Avenues Television channel, Bhaskar Rajkarnikar lost the next elections for president.

Rajkarnikar lost the elections of FNCCI with Pradeep Jung Pandey, who was later jailed on corruption charges. With his prison, Pashupati Murarka was declared the President on July 3, 2015. Pandey was sent to jail over a three-decade-old corruption case after a Supreme Court order. Later President granted pardon to Pandey.

In so much turmoil and controversy on direct elections for president, FNCCI amended the constitution later with a provision to promote senior vice president as president automatically in 2016. Under this provision, Bhawani Rana led FNCCI for four years paving the way for Shekhar Golchha as the next president.

Pradhan also filed their candidacies for the post of senior vice president of FNCCI last time but he withdrew it later. The current support of Golchha to Pradhan seems to be a secret understanding between them last time.

Last year a group of members of FNCCI tabled a constitution amendment proposal to block Golchha to become president automatically. Following the mediation of vice president Dhakal, the process was averted and this paved the way for Golchha to become president.

Known for his dynamism and accommodative approach, Dhakal helped defuse a major move to amend the process targeted at Golchha. However, industrialist Golchha joined the rival group in the forthcoming elections.

Despite Golchha openly backing and supporting a competitor candidate, Dhakal has not gone too far. In his modest and accommodative language, Dhakal is still making positive comments on the leadership quality of Golchha.

Dhakal’s Election March

FNCCI, the largest private-sector representative in the country, plans to hold its 54th AGM on November 26-28. Due to a lockdown imposed by the government to contain COVID-19, the assembly, which was announced for April, was postponed.

As the FNCCI statute has a provision whereby the senior vice-president automatically becomes the president in the next election, aspirants for the post of senior vice-president are seen in a race to win the support of voters of the largest private sector umbrella body.

Dhakal formally announced his candidature for senior vice president in November last year from the home district during Baglung Festival. Similarly, he announced a panel in June.

Addressing the media following filing the nomination, Dhakal said that he has filed a nomination for the senior vice president to solve the problems that appeared due to COVID-19 and other problems as well to strengthen Nepal’s private sector to contribute to the prosperity of Nepal.

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He said that FNCCI needs strong and dynamic leadership and he said that his panel has candidates who can understand the current crisis and know the way to solve the problems.

Candidate Dhakal also said that most of his panel members have filed nominations in their presence and the remaining few will submit applications virtually. He said that the COVID-19 has badly destroyed the economy and all the entrepreneurs and industrialists are in the midst of crisis.

Chandra Prasad Dhakal was declared vice president in the associate member category unopposed last time.

With the annual general meeting (AGM) and the election of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) approaching, industrialists and business people across the country have started filing the nominations.

Dhakal’s Agenda

“My role as a vice president will be to bridge the government and private sector,” said Dhakal. He said that that there is a need for a dependable leader in FNCCI who can knock on the door of every government office at the time of crisis and coordinate between them.

“Now, there is the need of a leader, who can play a role as the bridge between the government and private sector, I want to be the bridge to overcome the present crisis.”

He claimed that he has the capacity to be a strong rope and pillar of the bridge. “My flexible and coordinative capability is a dependable rope and pillar of the bridge.”

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As the Nepalese economy is badly hit by a coronavirus, it is the responsibility of FNCCI to uplift it. Now the private sector has been suffering. Industries are unproductive. The business community is hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.

The economy hit by coronavirus is yet to see signs of revival and it is the responsibility of the stakeholders to uplift the economy. The private sector is facing hardship. The government should provide the necessary support and coordination to entrepreneurs suffering from coronavirus.

Dhakal reminded that he started his business from a small cold store. “I have passed through small, medium scale, and big industries. From my own experiences, I have the capability to understand the difficulty and pain from a close vantage. This is my big asset in my professional life. Since the nature of my business has expanded to all 77 districts, I can see the pain, trouble and problems of entrepreneurs closely.”

Kishore Pradhan’s commitment

Despite FNCCI stalwart’s efforts to choose leadership on the basis of consensus and avoid factionalism and confrontation in the organization, competition and factionalism have been revived again.

FNCCI stalwarts amended the constitution-making elections starting from senior vice president hoping that this will end elections politics within an organization. It worked in the last two elections but the organization is back again to its old root with conspiratorial politics.

Pradhan’s panel has also competent, capable and qualified candidates as with Dhakal. Harvard educated young Saurav Jyoti, well versed and capable Dinesh Lal Shrestha and a number of other people jumped to competitive politics which will likely divide FNCCI’s house and this will take a long time to heal.

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Unlike CNI which has maintained a very healthy culture of consensus in choosing the office bearers on the basis of grooming, FNCCI has failed to follow healthy practices. Under the leadership of Rajesh Kazi Shrestha, the Nepal Chamber of Commerce also maintains a culture of consensus.

With the strong backing of outgoing president Rana and coming to president Golchha, Vice president Kishore Pradhan announced his candidature at Vivant, a hotel in Lalitpur. The venue and location chosen for the announcement have meaning.

“I have been in the industry and chamber sector for the last 28 years. I see FNCCI as a temple. I declared my nomination to become a priest of that temple.”

He said that his panel is capable to solve the problems faced by industrialists and entrepreneurs. Knowing our capacity, voters will elect us in the coming elections.

He said that there is a need to keep FNCCI far from politics because this is necessary to protect the economy. He said that his group has support and blessing from President Shekhar Golchha. Pradhan said that his group will win elections which will ultimately help the president to pursue his policy.

As said in Panchatantra, it is not the practice of a genuine counselor, when objects of ambition is attainable through conciliation, to go for bribery, intrigue and to fight which will bring him into deadly danger.

As Panchatantra says the weapon of a strong man is not a sword or bitter words against those who stand against him, he needs to use soft conciliatory words as a victor. As it says to divide and fall, this is what Dhakal, who has shown in the entire elections campaign pursuing his agenda to improve the economy and support the entrepreneurs and industrialists, has been trying to pursue a policy of conciliation. No matter who wins, a wise man prefers conciliation to achieve greatness.

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