4-10 March 2016 #798

Nagarik-Deuba, Poudel or Sitaula?

Balkrishna Adhikari in Nagarik, 2 March

Nepal’s oldest political party and currently the largest in Parliament, the Nepali Congress (NC) is amidst a rigorous process to elect its new leadership. Senior leader Sher Bahadur Deuba, acting President Ram Chandra Poudel and General Secretary Krishna Sitaula are in the fray to win the top post.

Poudel, who claims to be the senior most leader of the establishment faction, has teamed up with Shashank Koirala, son of the visionary socialist BP Koirala who founded, nurtured and shaped the NC. Not only has he persuaded Shashank to be his candidate for General Secretary, but he has also brought Sujata Koirala, another inheritor of the Koirala legacy, by his side. 

Poudel is adept at defending the party’s ideology and is friendly with the NC cadre. But the road to victory is still bumpy for him, and he would face the biggest obstacle from within the establishment faction.

Krishna Sitaula, an influential leader of the NC establishment, is determined to stop Poudel from securing 51 per cent of the votes. As per the NC’s statute, if none of the candidates secure the required percentage, another round of elections will take place and only the top two candidates will be allowed to campaign. Sitaula has held out a proposal to Poudel: whoever is thrown out of the race between the two of them will have to support the other in the next round.

The NC’s youth icon Gagan Thapa is the General Secretary candidate of the Sitaula panel. He is popular among younger constituents, which could hugely benefit Sitaula. Thapa had become an NC central committee member by winning the highest number of votes in the previous election. His temperament is a strength; he listens carefully before speaking and has rarely offended his friends. But even for him, victory would still be a tall order.

Running against Poudel and Sitaula is Sher Bahadur Deuba, the supreme leader of the anti-establishment faction of the NC. He has pitted Arjun Narsingh KC against his own son-in-law, Thapa, for General Secretary. Deuba is not articulate, talks less and avoids debate. But he is good at managing and mobilising resources, which many say is the reason why NC cadre support him. He is also trying to cash in on the split in the establishment to become the next NC president.

Read also:

Fight for Congress party presidentship

Congress conundrums, Prashant Jha

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