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NC’s Koirala ramps up pressure on Deuba-Dahal partnership

NC’s Koirala ramps up pressure on Deuba-Dahal partnership

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal may not have any imminent threats to his government, but things are not smooth either. There are strong voices inside the Nepali Congress, key coalition ally in the Dahal-led government, that the party should reconsider its alliance with the CPN (Maoist Center). 

Recently, a faction within the NC urged the party president, Sher Bahadur Deuba, to reevaluate the alliance with the Maoists. Leaders warned Deuba that Dahal may not hand over the government reins without the guarantee of another electoral alliance. 

Dahal’s only consolation is that Deuba is still in favor of maintaining the current coalition. 

Voices within the NC are also suggesting that the party should consider joining forces with the main opposition, CPN-UML, instead. Proponents of this alliance argue that the coming together of the two largest parties would diminish the bargaining power of smaller political parties and provide a stronger government capable of amending laws and implementing necessary reforms.

People are growing increasingly frustrated with major political parties due to the government's perceived inability to deliver on its promises. Many believe that the country's overall situation, including its economic prospects, could improve if the two major parties united.

Political analyst Puranjan Acharya, who has close ties with NC leader Shekhar Koirala, says that there are strong internal calls within the party to detach from the current coalition. However, Deuba remains optimistic that Dahal will eventually transfer power to him, and this optimism has hindered substantial discussions with the UML regarding a potential new government.

UML leaders believe that Deuba is being influenced by Prime Minister Dahal and are hesitant to engage in discussions about national politics. As for Deuba and UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli, they rarely sit for bilateral talks.

The relationship between Deuba and Shekhar Koirala is also deteriorating, with Koirala becoming a vocal critic of the Dahal-led government. A few days back, Koirala accused Prime Minister Dahal of fueling communal violence by supporting identity-based politics. He said that Dahal had a couple of months to mend ways to end anarchy.  And on Monday, Koirala warned Prime Minister Dahal and Defense Minister Purna Bahadur Khadka against politicizing the Nepal Army. 

Koirala's faction has even defied Deuba and forged an alliance with the UML in Koshi province, which has remained unstable since the previous election. Koirala has the support of nine provincial assembly members in Koshi, which is too little to form a government. But he worked with the UML to make Kedar Karki the chief minister of the province. 

Karki was appointed the new chief minister of Koshi province with backing from 47 lawmakers—39 from UML and eight from the NC.  To achieve this, Koirala, Minendra Rijal and other Congress leaders had worked very hard. 

Deuba had supported the Maoist candidate. With the backing of leaders like Krishna Prasad Sitaula and Purna Bahadur Khadka, Deuba had even threatened to hand over the chief minister’s post to the Maoist party if his choice of candidate is not allowed to become the chief minister.

The developments in Koshi have reverberated within the federal government, leading to a joint meeting between Dahal, Deuba and Koirala, which resulted in an agreement to accept Karki as the chief minister of the coalition.

A written agreement among three leaders says: “We are firm and clear toward the current power alliance and we will not allow this alliance to weaken under any circumstances.”  The agreement, at least for now, has saved the alliance at the center. 

The UML also  appears positive on welcoming NC in the provincial government, but the party will not entertain other parties including CPN (Maoist Center). It has warned of withdrawing the support to Karki if any other party joins the provincial government.

While it has become clear that Koirala seeks to oust the Dahal-led government, he currently lacks the support within the party to make a decisive move. However, he is gaining ground within the party to challenge Deuba's dominance.

Koirala needs the support of Congress General Secretary Gagan Thapa to challenge Deuba, who controls the Parliamentary Party and Central Working Committee. Despite internal divisions, both Koirala and Thapa are united in their stance against forming an electoral alliance with the Maoist party in upcoming local and national elections.

Although the situation in Koshi province may not have an immediate impact on the central coalition, Acharya says, the growing dissatisfaction within the Congress could potentially lead to the emergence of a new coalition in the coming months.