Saturday, April 17, 2021

Five dilemmas of Nepali Congress

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Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, who remained wishy-washy, willy-nilly during last two months of legal battle over parliament dissolution, has now spoken out. He is reported to have said that as the court did not issued stay order notice over writ petitions against dissolution, he believed the court will not restore the dissolved parliament, therefore, Nepali Congress needs to gear up for early elections. May be this time he forgot to consult his astrologist.

Dilemma 1: dubai haat ma laddoo

Since PM KP Sharma Oli unconstitutionally dissolved the parliament on 20 December, a Nepali cliché dubai haat ma ladoo or literal translation, “having ladoos (sweets) in both hands” became a popular mode of expression for Nepali Congress. This Nepali phrase is similar to English version: “Have a cake and eat it too”. The unexpected dissolution of the parliament due to intra-party conflict within Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has suddenly put nearly hibernating Nepali Congress at the centre stage of Nepali politics.

Both options – going for elections and restoration of parliament – were equally desirable to Nepali Congress, hence the phrase dubai haat ma laddoo became a popular mode of expression. May be Nepali Congress, including President Deuba, had a psychological problem that goes by the name of “approach-approach” dilemma, that is, both options are equally desirable but you can choose only one option.    

The phrase gained so much currency that even people started dubbing Nepali Congress as a “laddoo party”. One needs to be careful spelling the word “laddoo” – it could also mean useless, stupid character. Probably, understanding the double meaning behind the word laddoo, recently, Prakash Saran Mahat, a Congressi leader, refused to accept the concept of dubai haat ma laddoo and carefully deflected the idea saying, “in fact, the laddoo is in the hands of Nepali people.”

Dilemma 2: PM for a record number

During the general election campaign in 2017, probably, as an election stunt, Deuba used an astrologist to predict Nepali Congress wins by forecasting him to be the PM for a record number of seven times. He had already become four time prime minister by then. If he gets PM’s chair this time, it will be for the fifth occasion. The election results were disastrous in 2017 for the Nepali Congress. The party went into hibernation. Now, with a disaster striking within the ruling NCP, Nepali Congress Party is not just in the limelight, people are recalling the astrologist’s forecast of Deuba becoming PM for a record number of times. Definitely, Deuba is in good moods.

However, the grand old Nepali Congress Party is equally popular for antarghats (intra-party betrayals). Already, there are signals coming from party leaders that Nepali Congress should not join hands with the communists or get into power simply because there is an opportunity out there. There are calls for Ram Chandra Paudel or Prakash Man Singh to be the next PM. Nepali people have enough of Deuba and he becoming next PM will help further damage the image of the party.

Dilemma 3: Mandate of the people

Where personal choices fail to work, even theoretical or political reasoning like “mandate of the people” is being subscribed to. During elections in 2017, Nepali people have mandated Nepali Congress to stay in the opposition bench for five years. It will be betrayal of Nepali people. The party should not be lured by petty interests like getting into power, for a while, simply just because an opportunity is available. The party must be concerned with its long term future. Some senior leaders are critical of Deuba saying “we don’t have money to organize grand protests” – implying need to get into power. Definitely, there are starving people within the Nepali Congress who are desperate enough, having to remain for such a long period, without any position or power.       

Dilemma 4: Oli and Prachanda dangling carrots

The approach-approach dilemma of Nepali Congress is further amplified by the both factions of NCP dangling PM’s carrot to Deuba. By sheer coincidence, due to its numerical strength in the parliament, Nepali Congress is in an indispensable position. It is impossible to form next government without its support. Both factions - Oli and Prachanda-Nepal - of NCP need Nepali Congress support to form the next government. Comrade Prachanda has already declared that the next PM will be from the opposition party. He is directly offering the carrot to Deuba. Oli too may be vacating his seat for Deuba. Shall it join Oli faction or Prachanda-Nepal faction? Nepali Congress is in dilemma.

Dilemma 5: Waiting for the split in NCP

Deuba is scared that the restoration of the parliament may help unite an already divided NCP and shattered his dreams to be the PM for a record number. Bam Dev could be a joke, but there are no less numbers of leaders within NCP calling for a reunited NCP. Some are saying that if Oli goes into retirement, NCP may be revived; others are calling for handover of leadership to a next generation. As long as NCP remains legally intact as a single party and does not go into official split, it is near impossible to form another government. If Nepali Congress does not act fast, its own inaction and indecisiveness may help to unite NCP. This will be the greatest dilemma of Nepali Congress.

Published on 26 February 2021

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