Nepal Politics 
In Nepal Musical Chairs, Deuba-Prachanda Coalition is Falling Foul of Internal Party Bickering


Courtesy: The Kathmandu Post

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The just-concluded elections to pick 19 new members for the National Assembly, the federal upper house, have again laid bare the latent cracks in the ruling coalition. For the elections, the coalition had fielded two candidates from Koshi Province, Krishna Prasad Sitaula from the Congress and Champa Devi Karki from the Maoist Centre. While Sitaula scraped through—thanks to the staunch backing of the rival Congress camp led by Shekhar Koirala and Gagan Thapa—Karki was unexpectedly beaten by CPN-UML’s Rukmini Koirala despite the coalition having enough votes in the bank to elect her. Maoist leaders know that Karki lost because of the shenanigans of the Koirala-Thapa camp. The Congress faction apparently wanted to pay back the UML, the main opposition, which had earlier helped elect Kedar Karki of the camp as the chief minister of Koshi Province. Kedar Karki had secured a shock victory in the chief minister race by beating Indra Bahadur Angbo of the Maoist Centre, the official ruling coalition candidate. Back then, the rival Congress camp had sought the UML’s help in beating Angbo.

What has transpired in Koshi will not (yet) break the coalition apart, but it is certain to further strain Maoist Centre-Congress relations. Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba continues to be a staunch defender of the coalition. The way he sees it, keeping it whole is his only ticket back to the prime minister’s chair. Dahal, as the prime minister with just 32 seats in the lower house, does not want to rock the boat much either. (He thus won’t bother Deuba much about the Koshi debacle.) Personal calculations are at play inside the Congress too. Both Koirala and Thapa reckon time is running out for them to make their mark in national politics, especially following the arrival on the national scene of new forces. Moreover, this camp has all along been unhappy with the alliance with the Maoist Centre, and their disgruntlement has grown as the Dahal government has failed to improve service delivery or to pep up the flagging economy. If the Congress continues to unconditionally support Dahal, the party, they fear, would have to pay electorally.

But Deuba is desperate. Yet he must surely know that Dahal will not willingly hand him government leadership, whatever the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ between them during the formation of the Dahal government back in December 2022. If the past is any guide, as the day of the agreed handover (whenever that may be) inches closer, Dahal will play up non-cooperation from the Congress and again start exploring closer ties with the UML. Meanwhile, people are getting fed up with this never-ending drama of self-centred politics, even as the country suffers. Even among the 20 new members in the National Assembly (including one member to be appointed by the President at the government’s recommendation), many are old faces who have repeatedly been tried and tested. This time, there won’t be any experts in the ‘chamber of experts’. No wonder the voices for a decisive break with the past are getting so loud.  

(This article was first published by The Kathmandu Post, Nepal). 

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