Deuba eyes leading government as Oli hints at an understandingAfter holding one round of protest against House dissolution, the Congress party has decided not to go for joint agitation amid talks of a power-sharing deal between Deuba and Oli.
The Nepali Congress seems to be a confused party. While it did hold demonstrations in all 165 constituencies across the country on December 28 in protest of KP Sharma Oli government’s move of dissolving the House of Representatives, the party president, Sher Bahadur Deuba, appears to have reached an understanding with Oli.
On December 29, while receiving a memorandum from All Nepal Women’s Union, a sister organisation affiliated to the Nepal Communist Party, Oli declared that there is zero possibility of restoring the House. While justifying his House dissolution move, Oli urged the women leaders to prepare for the elections declared for April 30 and May 10–a year and a half earlier than schedule.
According to a woman leader, in response to a query “what happens if the House is restored”, Oli said that a coalition government will be formed under Deuba’s leadership.
“Oli went on to say that ‘we will lead the government with the Nepali Congress on a rotational basis until next elections are held’,” said the leader. “While stressing that House restoration is impossible, Oli gave a clear political roadmap.”
Oli’s assertions that the House won’t be restored come at a time when the Supreme Court is testing the constitutionality of the House dissolution move. Experts on constitutional matters argue that the constitution does not allow a majority prime minister to dissolve the House.
Oli’s repeated proclamation that the House won’t be restored and Nepali Congress’ refusal to be part of a joint agitation proposed by the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-Madhav Kumar Nepal faction has given ample ground to suspect if he and Deuba have reached some kind of agreement.
A faction in the Nepali Congress led by Ram Chandra Poudel has publicly lashed out at Deuba for his reluctance to strongly oppose Oli’s House dissolution move.
“Our party firmly believes that Oli’s move of dissolving the House is unconstitutional and undemocratic,” said Dilendra Prsada Badu, a leader close to Poudel. “But some of Deuba’s activities and statements have left us wondering.”
Deuba is facing a stiff challenge from his opponents in the party. Deuba, who refused to step down as the party leader despite the party facing a drubbing in the 2017 elections, is planning to run for the post of party president in the upcoming general convention scheduled for February 19 to 22.
Oli’s sudden move on December 20 of dissolving the House, however, seems to be a godsend for Deuba. If the House is restored, Deuba sees a chance of leading the government; and if the country goes to the polls, the general convention will be postponed. The Congress party sees a fair chance of making a comeback in the elections when the Nepal Communist Party is split.
According to two Nepali Congress leaders, after disputes flared in the Nepal Communist Party, there was a sudden increase in the frequency of meetings between Oli and Deuba.
Over the last three years, Deuba’s activities show that he has been Oli’s most trusted ally.
Even when Oli introduced the ordinance on the Constitutional Council Act, Deuba was in the know, leaders had confirmed to the Post.
According to some Nepali Congress leaders, Prem Kumar Rai and Jay Bahadur Chand were recommended to the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority as per an understanding between Oli and Deuba.
After Oli refused to withdraw the ordinance on the Constitutional Council Act despite agreeing to do so, the Dahal-Nepal faction on December 18 had even held a meeting with Poudel and raised the alarm about a possible agreement between Oli and Deuba.
Two days later, on December 20, Oli dissolved the House, and on December 22, the Nepal Communist Party split.
Gagan Thapa, a Congress leader who has strongly raised his voice against Oli’s move and called for the restoration of the House, admitted that talks about Oli and Deuba reaching a power-sharing deal have been making the rounds.
“But it could be possible only if the House is restored,” said Thapa.
The Deuba faction, however, has refuted any deal between Oli and Deuba.
“Some people are spreading rumours against Deuba,” said Gyanendra Bahadur Karki, a leader close to Deuba. “There is no truth in what is being talked about Oli and Deuba.”
Pradeep Gyawali, who is foreign minister in the Oli Cabinet and spokesperson for the Oli-led Nepal Communist Party, described a power-sharing deal between Oli and Deuba as unnecessary speculation.
“Since Deuba led the opposition party, it was but natural for Oli to hold meetings with him,” Gyawali told the Post. “Speculation about a deal between Oli and Deuba is unwarranted.”
According to Gyawali, elections will take place on the scheduled dates.
After the Congress party’s refusal to join the all-party joint struggle against Oli’s move, the Nepal Communist Party (Dahal-Nepal faction) has announced its own protest plans.
Despite a faction in the Nepali Congress pressing the leadership to hit the streets, the party has decided to wait for the Supreme Court ruling on Oli’s move to dissolve the House.
Some say Oli seems to have made up his mind to join hands with the Congress party regardless of what the Supreme Court says. According to insiders, Oli might try to rope in the Janata Samajbadi Party as well.
The Janata Samajbadi Party last week held demonstrations against House dissolution, calling the move unconstitutional and undemocratic.
If the House is restored by the court, there are chances that Oli will cobble together a deal with Deuba and a section of Janata Samajbadi Party, which was born out of a merger between Rastriya Janata Party Nepal and Samajbdi Party Nepal in April.
“If the House is reinstated, then Oli, Deuba and a section of Janata Samajbai Party may form a coalition government,” said a Standing Committee member of the Dahal-Nepal camp. “A rift in the Janata Samajbadi Party is also likely over joining the government.”