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Double whammy for NC. Courtesy: Maoist-UML alliance

Double whammy for NC. Courtesy: Maoist-UML alliance
Call it a political accident, a miscalculation, or a simple twist of fate, but there is no escaping the fact that this is the time of reckoning for the Nepali Congress. The party has been relegated to the opposition benches even after winning the most number of seats in the House of Representatives. The culprit here is no other than Sher Bahadur Deuba, the leader of the grand old party, who threw it all away by letting the pre-election ruling coalition break down. With only 89 seats secured in the 275-member parliament, the picture was quite clear for the NC: the party had no chance of leading the government while also holding all the important positions of president, vice president and speaker.

The solution was also simple enough: work out a power-sharing deal with the CPN (Maoist Center), the key coalition partner, on those highly coveted posts. But no, Deuba refused to delay his personal ambition of becoming a prime minister for a record sixth term, instead of handing over the premiership to Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal for 2.5 years and taking over the reins for the remainder term.

This was what Deuba and Dahal had agreed upon after all, but the former reneged on the deal. In the words of senior NC leader Ram Chandra Poudel, it was Deuba who betrayed Dahal. "We have nothing left now, we've lost everything," Poudel told the media on Sunday. Dahal, whose party won just 32 seats in the Nov 20 parliamentary election, had no qualms abandoning the coalition and forging an alliance with the CPN-UML led by his former rival, KP Oli. Deuba was confident that Dahal would never ally with Oli, or vice versa. This was a major miscalculation on Deuba’s part. If anyone who could have sniffed out Dahal’s agenda, it was Deuba. After all, the Dahal had broken faith with the NC and joined forces with the UML ahead of the 2017 polls. Now, Deuba’s leadership is being questioned within his party. Some leaders have even called for his resignation. “Our party president and parliamentary party leader, Sher Bahadur Deuba, should immediately resign from both positions on moral grounds,” party leader Gururaj Ghimire wrote on his Facebook. According to some NC leaders, Deuba had been taking decisions on vital issues without consulting with the party, save a few leaders from his faction. He had surrounded himself with a close group of advisors, including Purna Bahadur Khadka, Bimalendra Nidhi, Gyanendra Bahadur Karki and Prakash Sharan Mahat. These leaders allegedly offered wrong advice to Deuba, to the detriment of the party. When Dahal staked his claim to the post of prime minister after the election results, Deuba made him wait until the NC’s parliamentary party poll. And being selected as the PP leader, Deuba, on the advice of his lieutenants, tried to convince Dahal to allow him to lead the government first. It is said that Deuba had agreed to hand over the power to Dahal at a meeting that took place on Dec 17. However, Deuba later backtracked from the understanding. NC central member Nainsingh Mahar called the dissolution of the five-party coalition a “terrible mistake” by Deuba."It was necessary to continue the coalition. Our friends were deprived of the opportunity to contest the election because of this coalition. We knew the Maoists wouldn't be loyal, but we abided by the decision taken by the party leadership." Mahar wants an answer as to why the party leadership didn’t make an effort to save the coalition after the election.“Those responsible for breaking the coalition must face action,” he demanded. Deuba needs some explanation before the party's Central Working Committee and Parliamentary Party. Some leaders say the party president is not only who is at fault. They have also blamed the anti-establishment leaders including Shekhar Koirala and Gagan Kumar Thapa for putting pressure on Deuba to take an inflexible position and demand for both prime ministerial and presidential posts.