Deuba strong in parliamentary party as rival camp dividedCongress president reportedly has support of 55 lawmakers while the Koirala-Thapa faction jointly has 34 members.
Nepali Congress, which emerged as the largest political party from the November 20 elections, has begun the process of picking its parliamentary party leader.
In a statement issued on Monday, the party said the election for the parliamentary party leader would be held on Wednesday.
Earlier, on Sunday, the meeting of the party’s central work execution committee had formed a three-member election committee led by Joint General Secretary Bhisma Raj Angdembe with Pushpa Bhusal and Prakash Rasaili Snehi as members.
President Bidya Devi Bhandari on Sunday called for the formation of a new government under Article 76 (2) of the constitution within seven days.
Congress’ opposition camp led by Shekhar Koirala and General Secretary Gagan Thapa has started discussions to pick its candidate for parliamentary party leader. The party’s election committee has asked aspirants to register their candidacies by Tuesday afternoon.
However, discussions among the leaders of the Koirala-Thapa camp are yet to yield any result, said party insiders.
Thapa had during his election campaign disclosed his intent to contest for parliamentary party leader and subsequently, the premiership. He has since reiterated his claim to the top job. But Thapa’s bid has become complicated as, of late, Koirala has also expressed his desire to contest parliamentary party leadership. The party’s statute says that any leader aspiring to become prime minister should first get elected as parliamentary party leader.
While Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who is also party president, is the only candidate for the post from the party’s establishment side, the rival faction has failed to agree on its common candidate as both Koirala and Thapa have held firm in their claims.
As efforts to forge consensus between Koirala and Thapa failed as of Monday evening, there is a chance of three leaders contesting the post, Congress leaders closely following the developments said.
“Both Koirala and Thapa seem determined to contest parliamentary party leadership,” said Badri Pandey, a joint general secretary of the party who is among the leaders trying to get the faction to settle on a common candidate. “We are still working to forge consensus between the two leaders and will sit for a meeting tomorrow morning as well.”
“It seems the election for the parliamentary party leader will be a three-way race between Deuba, Koirala and Thapa,” NP Saud, a leader who is close to Deuba, told the Post.
Political analysts close to the party said that under the status quo Deuba is likely to secure the coveted position as he is the unopposed contender from his camp while the rival camp is divided.
Besides, Deuba’s team held sway in the election under both first-past-the-post and proportional representation categories last month, with Deuba securing election tickets for most of his loyal supporters.
“If the rival camp fails to show a united front during the parliamentary party leadership election, Deuba could easily win,” Geja Sharma Wagle, an analyst close to the party, told the Post.
The party’s 89 newly elected lawmakers are eligible to vote in the election for parliamentary party leader. The winner needs at least 45 votes.
According to party insiders, Deuba has the support of at least 55 parliamentarians while the opposition camp of Koirala-Thapa has the backing of just 34. If the opposite camp is divided, its MPs will also be divided.
“If the Koirala-Thapa faction stands united and manages to lure a few parliamentarians from the Deuba camp, its candidate could still win parliamentary party leadership,” Wagle said. “In any other case, Deuba wins.”
Negotiations among coalition partners for a new prime minister will take a concrete shape only after Congress elects its parliamentary party leader. Therefore, the election of Congress parliamentary leader is being closely followed.
Who is with whom in the parliamentary party leader race