The decision of Nepali Congress (NC) lawmaker Kedar Karki to stake claim for chief minister (CM) in Koshi province against the center’s decision has created ripples in the grand old party.
Karki, who is close to leader Shekhar Koirala, staked claim for CM submitting signatures of 47 lawmakers including eight NC lawmakers (including himself) and 39 CPN-UML lawmakers to Province Chief Parshuram Khapung on Thursday going against the center’s decision to support Indra Angbo of CPN (Maoist Center) as the coalition candidate.
The issue may even have implications in the factional dynamics of NC.
NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba did not consult party leaders about Koshi government and decided to make Angbo the coalition candidate for CM.
Koirala, who is unhappy with Deuba in recent times, also took the decision to ally with UML in the province without even consulting NC General Secretaries Gagan Thapa and Bishwa Prakash Sharma who are both not in the Deuba camp.
Thapa had contested for general secretary from the Koirala panel in the last general convention where Koirala eventually lost the run-off for president to Deuba.
Parties cannot issue whip to lawmakers if a government is formed according to Article 168 (5) but there is speculation that Deuba may opt to ensure that there are consequences for open defiance of the party president.
NC has 29 seats the provincial assembly, CPN (Maoist Center) has 13, CPN (Unified Socialist) has four and Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP) has one seat. UML is the largest party in the 93-strong provincial assembly with 40 seats including the deputy speaker. RPP, which had promised to support Angbo, has six seats.
Deuba did not discuss the issue in the meeting of office-bearers and former office-bearers held on Tuesday, and the recent central committee meeting.
Vice-president Purna Bahadur Khadka and General Secretary Sharma were not present during the meeting on Tuesday but another General Secretary Thapa had asked Deuba to discuss the issue, and asked whether RPP would support NC in Koshi or not.
Deuba in response said that he had been discussing the issue with Koirala and Minendra Rijal, and added that RPP did not seem likely to support NC.
Thapa and Rijal objected to that and Thapa pointedly stated that there could be problems if the party were to give up Koshi CM to Maoist Center.
Leaders had also urged Deuba to call Koirala to the meeting to discuss the issue but Deuba did not oblige.
There were rumors of NC changing its parliamentary party leader in the province if RPP were ready to support any candidate other than Uddhav Thapa for CM.
But RPP Chairman Rajendra Lingden ruled that out saying it wouldn’t support NC for CM, but support Maoist Center in return for the post of Koshi speaker.
Deuba did not discuss those developments inside the party, according to an NC leader who added that the problem arose after the decision to give up Koshi CM to Maoist Center was taken in the coalition without discussion in the party.
“President Deuba did not call meeting to discuss the issue. But apparently Koirala also did not consult with his faction. The problem arose as both Deuba and Koirala moved forward on their own.”
General Secretaries Thapa and Sharma had stated that NC should look to ally with UML instead of allowing the province to head toward another election in some public forums. Sharma had even talked with former Koshi CM and UML Parliamentary Party Leader Hikmat Karki but Deuba was determined to continue the current coalition at the center even in the province fearing that UML can create problems in NC, and even the coalition at the center and other provinces.
Koirala has unilaterally taken the step that was floated even by the general secretaries who may not be happy with Koirala for not discussing the issue with them.