Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
Koirala in the firing line

A conspiracy is on to deny Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala re-election as party-president during the upcoming 10th party convention scheduled for November in Pokhara. The first attack is likely to come from the parliamentary party itself rather than from within the Nepali Congress. Leading the campaign against Koirala is Khum Bahadur Khadka, a senior minister in his cabinet, who is trying to engineer a no-confidence motion against Koirala. Members in Koirala\'s kitchen cabinet say that the prime minister could make changes in the cabinet to try to avoid a showdown.

Khadka switched camps to join Koirala\'s opponents two weeks ago when, while reviewing the performance of different ministries, the prime minister had remarked that Khadka had not been able to run the water resources ministry well. That meant the minister could lose the ministry in the next cabinet reshuffle. Khadka has since camped with his opponents where he has been discussing bringing a possible no-confidence vote against Koirala.

Sources said that Khadka has also convinced former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on the need for a no-confidence motion against the PM. Then word was sent to former prime minister Bhattarai telling him that time was ripe for such a move. A Congress MP had been assigned to get Bhattarai\'s approval, but the latter did not agree. It is now said there is divided opinion about challenging Koirala in the parliamentary party. One camp, comprising Chiranjibi Wagle and Puma Bahadur Khadka, feel that challenging Koirala without the necessary strength would only make Koirala stronger and even help strengthen his position in the upcoming party meet.

Others like Khadka and Bal Bahadur K.C. feel that even with two to four votes more on Deuba\'s side it would consolidate the latter\'s position at the convention. This group plans to use the no-confidence motion to corner Koirala and use Bhattarai\'s support to pressure the prime minister not to contest in the party\' election. They want to force Koirala to say "I won\'t contest," which would be a moral victor}\'. Should that happen, then Deuba could easily take over leadership of both party and government.

If this does not work, Deuba and his team could try to force postponement of the party convention saying that the district and local bodies have not been able to prepare for the same, because of the poor law-and-order situation. But the Nepali Congress spokesman Narahari Acharya says that would not be enough to postpone the meeting. The Congress has already postponed the convention twice. The Deuba camp thinks it can get public opinion in its favour if it can get an extension.

On 22 July, Koirala held one-on-one meetings with Khadka, Home Minister Govinda Raj Joshi, Foreign Minister Tarani Dutt Chataut, Industry Commerce and Supply Minister Ram Krishna Tamrakar and Communication Minister Java Prakash Prasad Gupta, at his residence in Baluwatar and expressed dissatisfaction over their conduct of business.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)