Your search keywords:

Why is NC becoming aggressive in the House ?

Why is NC becoming aggressive in the House ?

Just one year after joining the ruling coalition, the Nepali Congress (NC) has found itself unexpectedly consigned to the opposition benches. This is the second time in 12 months that Nepal’s oldest democratic party has been forced to play the role of the opposition after another dramatic shakeup of the ruling alliance.

The latest reversal of fortunes came on March 5 when Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal surprised the NC by announcing a new power-sharing deal with the CPN-UML and, Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) and Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP). NC, which was heading nine ministries, including the influential defense, finance and foreign affairs, in the coalition government didn’t even get a wind of Dahal’s plan.

Stung by what it sees as betrayal and unethical defection by Dahal, NC has come out swinging in its new role as the main opposition force. NC, which has remained in power for most of the past three years barring a three-month stint after the 2022 election, is becoming aggressive in the House. “As the largest party in the opposition now, NC has to play an effective role which is natural and expected of it given its position,” said political analyst Geja Sharma Wagle. “NC must adopt an aggressive stance in parliament. Its current confrontational approach is understandable,” he added. Wagle argued that it is the opposition's duty to hold the government accountable in the House and raise issues concerning the public interest. The new power equation, which represents an unimaginable political debacle for NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba, has forced the NC to make its presence effective in parliament. “This is what NC should be doing in the parliament now. However, there are signs that we are overreacting a bit and have gone overboard at times,” NC Central Working Committee member Nain Singh Mahar said. “The confrontational posture seems driven by the anguish of being unexpectedly ousted from the government.”

Aggression against Lamichhane

NC looks to have gone all out against RSP Chair and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Rabi Lamichhane. The party has demanded a parliamentary probe into allegations linking the new home minister Lamichhane to a cooperative fraud case by disrupting House proceedings.

Ramesh Lekhak, the chief whip of the Nepali Congress, has demanded a parliamentary probe into the allegations against Lamichhane. “There have been instances in the past when parliamentary probe committees were formed after questions were raised against ministers. A parliamentary inquiry committee must be formed to look into the home minister’s case as well,” Lekhak said in the meeting of the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

NC is skeptical about an impartial investigation since the person facing scrutiny is heading the home ministry. “Billions of rupees belonging to thousands of depositors have been embezzled. In the Surya Darshan cooperative scandal in Pokhara alone, Rs 1.35bn of 19,000 depositors was misappropriated. Some 100 people have siphoned the funds by opening fake accounts. One of those who opened such fake accounts was Lamichhane himself,” NC General Secretary Gagan Thapa said. “When the home minister himself is implicated, who will conduct a fair probe?”

The main opposition party has raised doubts over the integrity of the investigation process with the primary accused holding charge of the home ministry that oversees police. It has been disrupting House proceedings regularly. Analysts, however, say the frequent obstruction of parliament may be going overboard. “NC has become overly reactive on the Lamichhane issue. Raising questions is valid but getting bogged down at the personal level and obstructing House proceedings is unbecoming of such an experienced parliamentary party,” Wagle said. “NC should play an effective and constructive role. It is not good to obstruct House proceedings in the name of becoming effective.”

Political analyst Arun Subedi said that NC is now adopting tactics that opposition parties have traditionally employed when out of power. “From raking up controversies around ministers to disrupting parliamentary proceedings, NC is resorting to similar tactics that have served opposition camps well in the past,” he added.

Way ahead for NC

There are already voices within NC calling for rapprochement with the UML to forge a new alliance and remove Dahal in a bid to curb instability. NC, which brushed aside proposals from UML Chairperson KP Sharma Oli for a power-sharing deal, now finds itself looking towards the UML as a potential partner. NC leaders have started arguing that the situation of three different prime ministers having to seek a vote of confidence within just one year after elections has directly impacted provincial governments as well. Some NC leaders are also apprehensive that if the party actively pursues a new ruling coalition, it could further exacerbate political instability. “NC should not get entangled in efforts to form yet another government. Instead of power games, it needs to go to the people now,” said NC leader Mahar. “Whenever NC is in opposition, it has received public support. This is an opportunity to connect with the citizens, strengthen the organization, and effectively raise people’s issues both in parliament and on the streets.”

Sources say the NC leadership, which tried to stop Dahal from passing the floor test, is reportedly preparing a strategy to explore an alternative to the Dahal government before the upcoming budget. Subedi argues that the possibility of a government change always remains due to the number games in the House of Representatives. “The numbers in this parliament are such that the issue of government formation and dissolution will remain alive as long as this legislature exists,” he said. “It is up to the NC to decide whether to accept Dahal’s leadership, move ahead by uniting democratic forces or form a government by joining hands with UML,” he added. 

Analysts, however, caution that NC should refrain from actively pursuing yet another ruling coalition at this stage as it could prolong instability. “If NC engages in toppling the government like other parties, it would send a message that it is no different,” Subedi said. “NC must focus on strengthening parliamentary practices. Since only one bill has been passed over the past year, NC also needs to play a role in enhancing the effectiveness of the House. It is also an opportunity for the party to reconnect with the people as well.”