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Deuba in hot water, once again

Deuba in hot water, once again

Soon after the Nepali Congress emerged as the largest party in the House of Representative, the party leaders started staking claim for the posts of president and prime minister. This opinion was not limited to NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba and his coterie. Deuba’s rival leaders Shekhar Koirala and Gagan Thapa also joined the chorus.  

As the largest party, the NC leaders were of the view that the party was the bona fide contender to run Sheetal Niwas and Baluwatar. This didn’t go down well with the CPN (Maoist Center), NC’s election ally and pre-election coalition partner.

Before the Nov 20 elections, Deuba had agreed to hand over the prime ministerial post to Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal. After seeing that Deuba was planning to renege on the deal, Dahal mobilized some of his party leaders for power-sharing talks with the CPN-UML. Deuba and his supporters were confident that Maoist party would never partner with UML, given the bad blood between Dahal and UML chair KP Oli.

Even when Dahal walked out of the power-sharing meeting with the NC, Deuba and his supporters were hoping the former to return. The NC leaders were stunned when they learned that Dahal and Oli had agreed to a power-sharing deal. Aghast, Deuba immediately called Dahal and tried to offer the premiership, but the latter replied that it was already too late.  The NC, which holds 89 seats in the HoR, suddenly found itself relegated to the opposition benches.

The Maoist and UML cobbled together a seven-party alliance. This same alliance is likely to form governments in provinces as well, rendering NC powerless.   

Now, Deuba is under heavy pressure from the party rank and file. There have been calls for his resignation. To neutralize the dissenting voices, he has called for the party’s Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting. But NC leader Guru Raj Ghimire says the damage has already been done. “Nepali Congress cannot recover from this loss for another 10-15 years,” he says. “The party president must resign for this blunder.” Ghimire fears the three communist forces—UML, Maoist and CPN (Unified Socialist)—could merge to become the single largest party. It is not just the leftist parties coming together that the NC needs to worry about.

Right of center parties like the newly formed Rastriya Swatantra Party is also gaining ground. Ghimire admits it is going to be tough for the NC in the next election. “Besides President Deuba, other senior office-bearers should also take the blame for what happened,” he says. As the party prepares for its CWC meeting, the rival faction led by Koirala is planning to make a strong case against Deuba’s leadership. The group met on Wednesday to discuss the agenda for the meeting, where they concluded that the debacle was caused by some leaders’ lust for power.