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Sitaula’s comeback bid

Sitaula’s comeback bid

Nepali Congress leader Krishna Prasad Sitaula is looking to make a political comeback by securing a National Assembly seat. Having lost two consecutive general elections of 2017 and 2022, the former home minister seems eager to wear the parliamentarian’s tag. 

The election for 19 new upper house members is set to take place next week and Sitaula’s victory is almost certain, thanks to a strategic electoral alliance within the ruling coalition. Sitaula, whose influence in national as well as party politics has been waning of late, managed to clinch the NA candidacy due to his closeness with the NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba. 

Despite differing opinions within the NC on the election candidates, consensus among top leaders of the ruling parties solidified Sitaula’s position in the upper house. Even Deuba’s rivals in the Congress party, Gagan Kumar Thapa and Shekhar Koirala, are rallying behind Sitaula, hailing it as an exceptional decision. Earlier, Thapa and Koirala were critical of Sitaula’s candidacy. They were in favor of fielding new faces, preferably experts on some fields, to honor the spirit of the NA as envisioned by the Constitution of Nepal, 2015.  

The buzz is that Sitaula’s entry into the federal parliament is not just a personal victory; it’s a strategic move made by the NC leadership to fortify the constitution against mounting challenges from royalist and anti-federal forces.

Whispers of Sitaula taking the reins as the chair of the upper house are also getting louder. Sources say that both CPN (Maoist Center) and CPN (Unified Socialist) have thrown their support behind Sitaula, putting an end to their claims for the coveted position. The term of incumbent NA chairman, Ganesh Prasad Timalsina, is ending in April.

Sitaula’s bid to enter the national assembly despite previous election setbacks has piqued the interest of many. After losing the 2017 and 2022 general elections to Rastriya Prajatantra Party Chairman Rajendra Lingden from Jhapa constituency 3, Sitaula was relegated to the margins of national politics. Though he enjoyed the title of a senior leader within the Congress party, his role and influence were limited.

Afraid that he could completely lose his relevance inside the party and national politics, Sitaula, who once harbored the ambition of leading the NC, got close to the party president, Deuba. In the meantime, he continued to maintain a good rapport with the top leaders of other major parties, mainly Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal of the Maoist Center. 

According to Sitaula, his candidacy is all about ensuring the complete implementation of the new constitution and safeguarding the rights of the people. 

Starting as a low-profile figure in the party after the restoration of democracy in 1990, Sitaula emerged as a key player during the peace negotiations with Maoist rebels. His alliance with then NC President Girija Prasad Koirala catapulted him into the national political arena, eventually leading to roles as deputy prime minister and minister for home affairs.

Sitaula’s moment to shine came as one of the chief negotiators of peace with the Maoist rebel group. His role in bringing the Maoists into mainstream politics was widely praised.  

After the success of Janaandolan-2, Koirala appointed Sitaula as deputy prime minister and minister for home affairs which further elevated his profile in national politics and inside the party. This also increased his political ambition and started projecting himself as the Koirala’s successor, ahead of other senior leaders including Deuba, Sushil Koirala and Ram Chandra Poudel. He even contested for the position of party president, only to lose the election with a huge margin.

It is no secret that Situala, who has lost his influence and supporters in the party, has only managed to maintain his relevance with Deuba’s support. Now Deuba’s support is set to land him the post of the upper house chair.