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A hard lesson for Congress and Deuba

A hard lesson for Congress and Deuba

Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba was fully confident that Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal would hand over the power to him in 2025. So he was treading cautiously to keep the current coalition intact, extra careful not to upset Dahal. 

In Deuba’s own words, he refused to meet the opposition leader, KP Sharma Oli of the CPN-UML, despite the latter’s repeated requests. He even turned down Oli’s premiership offer, because he didn’t want to betray Dahal’s CPN (Maoist Center). But little did Deuba know that Oli’s UML had also been making overtures to Prime Minister Dahal to break the Maoist-NC coalition and form a left alliance. 

While it is true that the relationship between Dahal and Deuba was fraught with disagreements and misunderstandings, Deuba never thought they were serious enough to break the alliance.
According to NC leaders, the current situation resonates with the incident of 2017 when the Maoist party while being in the NC-led government forged an electoral alliance with the UML. Consequently, the NC faced a historic drubbing in the general elections, while the Maoists and UML went on to unify to become the largest communist party that the country had ever seen. The unified communist party, however, split to their old forms following a power tussle between Dahal and Oli.  

Now the two communist parties are together again and the Nepali Congress, which emerged as the largest political party through the 2022 parliamentary elections, has been relegated to the opposition’s role. Deuba’s party has also been stripped of power in the provinces. The NC has been in this same situation before. Soon after the 2022 general elections, the NC had taken a firm stance of forming a government under its leadership. This led the Maoists to switch sides and make an alliance with the UML to form a government. But once again, there was a power tussle between Dahal and Oli, and the Maoist-UML coalition fell through. 

The NC returned to power after agreeing to Dahal’s condition that he should be allowed to lead the government for two years. As per the agreement, Deuba would lead the coalition government for the final two years of the five-year term, and Madhav Kumar Nepal of the CPN (Unified Socialist) would helm the government for one year after the end of Dahal’s term.  

With everything that had occurred between the Maoists and UML, with all the bad blood between Dahal and Oli, there was no reason for Deuba to suspect that something was amiss. How wrong was he! 

In Monday’s office-bearers meeting, Deuba called Dahal a betrayer for secretly aligning with the UML without any solid reason. While Deuba and his supporters have taken it as a major loss to the NC, leaders like Shekhar Koirala and Gagan Thapa are of the view that it will be beneficial to the party in the long-run. 

Koirala said break-up and formation of alliances is a normal affair in politics, even though Prime Minister Dahal abandoned the NC in an abrupt and abnormal manner. 

He added that the NC should be careful about forging such an alliance in the future.

For a long time, Koirala was against the NC-Maoist alliance. The party’s general secretary duo Thapa and Bishwa Prakash Sharma also held contradictory views regarding the alliance with the Maoist party. Even though the Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel was elected the President with the support of the Maoists, Thapa, Sharma, Koirala and other NC leaders were concerned that the alliance with the Maoist party was compromising the party’s ideology and eroding the support base. 

In the recently concluded Mahasamiti meeting of the NC, Thapa and his team took a firm position that the party should make an official stance that it will not forge any electoral alliance in the next general elections. So the party endorsed the proposal to not form a pre-poll alliance while also committing to give continuity to the NC-Maoist coalition until the next elections. 

It was a reason enough for Prime Minister Dahal to sever ties with the NC. Dahal was also unhappy with the performance of the NC ministers. Some leaders say the prime minister was also being pressured by the NC not to investigate high-profile corruption scandals involving politicians and businesspersons.

The NC was allegedly putting pressure on Prime Minister Dahal to remove Home Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha, claiming that Shrestha was targeting NC leaders by opening investigations into past corruption cases. 
The NC is currently discussing their future course of action. So far it is not clear whether the party will remain in opposition and prepare for the 2027 general elections, or start making efforts to dismantle the Maoist-UML coalition all over again. 

Youth leaders of the party are of the view that the party should remain in the opposition and focus on party building, but the decision rests upon Deuba, who holds a major sway in the party. Koirala said the NC should learn a lesson from this episode, but it is really Deuba who should.