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Is Deuba plotting a comeback?

Is Deuba plotting a comeback?
Sher Bahadur Deuba has not uttered a single word in public after his former coalition partner Pushpa Kamal Dahal, of CPN (Maoist Center), sidelined the Nepali Congress to the opposition in a rather humiliating fashion. Despite winning the largest number of seats in the Nov 20 parliamentary election, the NC failed to be in the government, because Deuba botched the power-sharing talks with the Maoists. He refused to leave the prime minister’s office to Dahal, and the latter went ahead and joined forces with the CPN-UML to form a coalition government. The Maoist-UML coalition has also caused the NC to lose its primacy in provinces.  Deuba has explained what to do to his party leaders for driving out Dahal and squandering the electoral victory. The NC has called a meeting of its Central Working Committee on Jan 12, where Deuba is expected to face tough questions and criticism.

In the meantime, the NC president is busy working to temper the blows, perhaps even plotting a return to power. On Wednesday, he instructed his close confidant and party spokesperson, Prakash Sharan Mahat, to hold a press conference and make some remarks about the latest political scenario.

Mahat predicted that the government under Prime Minister Dahal would not last long, given the contradictory ideologies and interests among the coalition partners. True, this coalition is shaky, and Dahal has yet to win the confidence vote. Is Deuba trying to snag an opportunity here, or is he just trying to assuage the anger among the party leaders and supporters? The answer could be both.  As Deuba is currently busy consulting with his core team on how to deal with the imminent intra-party dispute over the post-election fiasco, some leaders have advised him to take steps to break the Maoist-UML coalition.  Within the Deuba camp, some leaders reckon a power-sharing deal could still be worked out with Dahal. They have suggested that the NC can agree to back Dahal’s premiership for a full five-year term and get the presidential post in return.  However, a leader close to Deuba said the party president has not said anything about it.  Another leader from the Deuba camp said if the party president gives his go-ahead, they are ready to convey the message to Dahal.  However, Nain Singh Mahar, NC central working committee member, said that the ship has already sailed and that the party should contend with remaining in the opposition.  “Some leaders want to break the current ruling coalition, but I don’t think their attempts will yield any result.”  Political analyst Puranjan Acharya said as NC is in a defensive mode, Deuba could agree to offer whatever Dahal wants.  “Deuba could even try to enter a power-sharing deal with the UML,” he said. “But we must bear in mind that Deuba has become weak in terms of both health and power and his team is not capable of dealing with the Maoist and other parties.”  Ramesh Rijal, a leader close to Deuba, said while he believes that the Maoist-UML coalition is unsustainable, the NC is not in a race to dismantle it.  Maoist leader Haribol Gajurel said the first priority of Prime Minister Dahal is to secure a vote of confidence from the Parliament.  “Obviously, there are internal and external efforts to break this coalition, but I do not see such a possibility in the immediate future,” he said.  Under the power-sharing agreement, Gajurel said, the UML will get the president while the tenure of speaker will be divided into two terms between the UML and the Maoists.  “The fate of this government will depend on its delivery,” he added. “Both parties have learned a lesson after the breakup of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP). So, there is a pressure on the leadership not to repeat the same mistake.”