Economist Wagle quits Congress ‘after constant humiliation by the Deubas’Wagle is said to have joined Rastriya Swatantra Party and is set to contest Tanahun-1 seat.
Noted economist and former vice-chairman of the National Planning Commission Swarnim Wagle announced his dissociation from the Nepali Congress on Thursday ‘due to constant humiliation’ by the party’s chief Sher Bahadur Deuba and his wife Arzu Rana Deuba.
His announcement has triggered a stir in the political and media circles. Soon after the announcement, Wagle joined the Rastriya Swatantra Party and is set to contest the Tanahun-1 parliamentary seat, which was vacated after Congress lawmaker Ramchandra Paudel was elected President.
By-elections have been scheduled next month for three vacant seats including Tanahun-1.
According to several Nepali Congress sources, President Paudel had recently asked Wagle to become his foreign relations and economic adviser. Wagle agreed, but said he would work as honorary adviser—and would not take any salary or benefits. But Congress chief Deuba and his wife intervened and obstructed the appointment. It was then that Wagle decided to quit the party.
“The President was all set to appoint Wagle, but Deuba and his wife, Arzu, stopped him,” a Congress leader said. “Wagle got miffed especially because they barred him from working as an adviser, even without the salary, and finally he decided to quit the party.”
After Wagle was rejected, Congress leader and former minister Sunil Bahadur Thapa was appointed the President’s political adviser. Similarly, former Nepal Rastra Bank governor Chiranjibi Nepal and former attorney general Baburam Kunwar have been appointed economic and legal advisers, respectively, to the President.
Before quitting the party, Wagle sent a message to four Congress leaders—general secretaries Gagan Thapa and Bishwa Prakash Sharma; senior leader Shekhar Koirala; and another leader Govinda Raj Pokhrel—stating that he could not stay in the party due to continuous ‘insults and humiliations from the Deuba-Arzu gang’.
Despite your [the four leaders’] support and generosity, I cannot remain in the Congress anymore, wrote Wagle.
“This is a big loss to the party, we have missed a visionary leader,” Pokhrel, who worked closely with Wagle for a long time, told the Post.
“He would normally consult us, but he came to this decision all of a sudden,” Pokhrel said, adding, “I am trying to reach him, but he is not responding.”
His frustrations with the party were growing for several reasons, according to leaders close to Wagle.
One Nepali Congress leader told the Post that the party’s decision to deny him the Tanahun-1 ticket was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
A meeting of the work execution committee of the Congress has decided to field Govinda Bhattarai from Tanahun-1 and Jit Narayan Shrestha from Chitwan-2. As soon as the Congress on Thursday named Bhattarai as its candidate from Tanahun-1, Wagle announced his divorce from the party.
“We hope we will get connected again in some way the day you have a decisive role in the party. Until then, I promise to cooperate and maintain the current intimate friendship,” Wagle said in the message sent to the four leaders.
Wagle was involved in drafting the party’s manifesto for the parliamentary elections last November and aspired to contest the elections. But he was denied a ticket.
Some reports suggest that Rabi Lamichhane’s Rastriya Swatantra Party has offered Wagle its ticket to contest the Tanahun-1 by-election.
RSP leader Arnico Panday dropped the hint on Twitter on Thursday.
“Looking forward to @SwarnimWagle finally getting elected to parliament and living up to his potential guiding the country's economy,” Panday, a central committee member of the Rastriya Swatantra Party, tweeted. “Best of luck, my friend! May the bell ring throughout Tanahun-1!”
Going beyond that, Rastriya Swatantra Party spokesman Mukul Dhakal said that Wagle is indeed an RSP member and is set to contest the election from Tanahun-1 on the party’s ticket.
Dhakal said the party was in contact with Wagle for some time but they have yet to decide what position to assign him in the party.
After Wagle’s announcement, the two Congress general secretaries, Thapa and Sharma, held a meeting at the party headquarters at Sanepa and tried to stop him from quitting, but their attempts were unsuccessful.
“I have decided to distance myself from the Nepali Congress Party, with which I was associated since the ‘Satyagraha’ of 2042 BS and the Janandolan of 2046 BS and 50 years of my family legacy with the party,” Wagle wrote in his Facebook post.
In his Facebook post on Thursday, Wagle said the Congress party’s activities in recent years make its ‘self-respecting’ members ashamed.
Wagle also announced that he will be active in a new public role from the Nepali New Year 2080, with the agenda of democracy and economic progress based on good governance.
Wagle is currently the chair of the Institute for Integrated Development Studies (IIDS), a South Asian policy think-tank established in Kathmandu in 1979. He also served in advisory roles at several international organisations including the United Nations.