27 Feb-5 Mar 2015 #747

Tables turned

Outnumbered in the CA and lacking numbers on the streets, the opposition is waiting for a face-saving way to return to the table
Anurag Acharya
More than a month has passed since the parties missed their self-imposed constitutional deadline, and yet there is no end to the political arm-twisting that has deadlocked the CA proceedings.

The ruling NC-UML remains adamant, while the opposition Maoist-Madhesis have decided to snub the Prime Minister’s call for talks. Both sides seem determined to test the other one last time, which is why the coming weekend could witness yet another ugly showdown on the streets of Kathmandu.

However, the public mood across the country remains uncharacteristically cynical. “People are not going to come out onto the streets just because the parties want to parade them for the show of their strength,” I overheard a group of students chatting over a cup of tea near Patan Multiple campus earlier this week.

If this is the general mood, it will be a blow to opposition’s plan of intimidating the ruling parties with their bamboo stick-wielding YCLs on the streets this Saturday.

But Pushpa Kamal Dahal may be looking just a little ahead into the future than most of his opposition comrades. With NC’s party convention due in September, Dahal knows, pressure is building on Prime Minister Sushil Koirala from within his own party.

In the NC central committee meeting this week, a majority of the leaders, especially those from the rival Sher Bahadur Deuba faction criticised Koirala and advised him to get the opposition on board, even if it is to initiate the majority voting on statute. This should be reassuring for Dahal. The enemy of your enemy is your friend, after all.

Losing the party presidency by a narrow margin last time, Deuba will be a favourite to win unless Koirala regains his stature in the party by delivering the statute. This will mean extending a compromise offer to Dahal, which seems unlikely at the moment given opposition’s continuing protest. However, Dahal’s recent one-on-one meetings with Koirala leaves that possibility open.

Another likely scenario is that there will be an internal arrangement between the leaders to hand over parliamentary and government leadership to Deuba, allowing Koirala to retain party leadership. The opposition will still fancy its chances negotiating with Deuba, who has come forth as more flexible and willing in the top leadership meetings. The only problem with this option is, KP Oli and UML are eying the next government leadership as well, as per their ‘gentleman’s agreement’ with NC.

In any case, it’s a tough call for Koirala, who, like his cousin GP, wants to have his cake and eat it too. Sushil Koirala has also received unsolicited advice from international community, who are understandably concerned about deteriorating political environment, and have in all good faith urged the government to act in consensus.

Although, the Prime Minister remains positive about their concerns, the Foreign Ministry headed by his coalition partner UML has been warning the diplomatic missions against ‘interference in the internal affairs’. 

Whether KP Oli and UML are more worried about national sovereignty or only trying their best to undermine Koirala’s efforts to get the opposition back into negotiation, is a matter of perspective. An NC leader loyal to Koirala seemed very sure: “Oli wants to bring down this government by locking horns with the opposition and antagonising the international community, so that he can become the next PM.”

Cornered within his own party and troubled by the coalition partner, Koirala will be eager to get the statute drafting process started again. But can he reclaim the leadership of the dialogue process from  Oli, who has been dominating the past negotiations with his rabble-rousing idioms against the opposition? Let’s see how Saturday’s showdown pans out.


Read also:

In an agitated state, Kunda Dixit

Show of strength

Maoists revive YCL

Waiting for Nepali Kejriwal, Bihari K Shrestha

Not yet boiling point, Navin Jha

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