Sunday, June 20, 2010

Goings-On In Their Neck Of The Woods

You would have thought the Sher Bahadur Deuba-Ram Chandra Poudel contest would place Kul Bahadur Gurung closer to the premiership. However, the Nepali Congress may be veering toward another janjati, Amik Sherchan. A Maoist, former deputy premier and partner of the anti-palace Seven Party Alliance-Maoist combine, Sherchan has the right credentials to break the stalemate. But the idea still sounds a little warped.
Within the Nepali Congress, Poudel seems have the edge over Deuba, now that that sections of Deuba’s NC (Democratic) have joined hands with Sushil Koirala’s centrist faction. Sushil’s support helped Poudel gain the parliamentary party leadership over favorite Deuba last year and the alliance seems to be intact.
Still, the three-time former premier is not about to concede defeat. The fact that Deuba was sacked twice – failing to hold elections the first time and inability to bring in the Maoists for talks the second – does not seem to be a disqualification. Deuba supporters insist the party and country must consider his international standing. His Oval Office meeting with President George W. Bush and tenure as SAARC chief seem to be the primary considerations.
But the personal has gone deep into the political. Deuba can’t forget that Poudel as speaker had some knowledge of the machinations of Girija Prasad Koirala when he forced Deuba to seek that vote of confidence he was not obliged to in 1996. Nor does Deuba seem to be able to get past how Poudel egged him on to break away from Koirala, promising to assume the presidency of the new outfit, only to stick with the grand old man.
Deuba’s acquiescence in Sujata Koirala’s elevation to the deputy premiership was partly a way of his getting back at Poudel. By aligning himself with Khum Bahadur Khadka’s Hindutva brigade, Deuba has proceeded to undercut Poudel’s Sanskrit background. Back from talks in New Delhi, Sujata, too, has carefully claimed that all the Indians are interested is in consensus.
Poudel has little beyond the party’s history to peddle. The Nepali Congress cannot get any more democratic or socialist than it already claims it has. Many still blame Deuba for sullying the party’s image through public perceptions of corruption, cronyism and outright clumsiness.
But then he seems to have won some new adherents. Ram Sharan Mahat, Deuba’s finance minister who had refused to side with him during the party split, now seems to be in favor of the Tarun Dasta. Or, at least, he wants to bring the issue within the party for discussion amid the Maoist onslaught. (Indeed, the armed force appears to be one of few issues Ram Mahat agrees with his brother, Prakash.)
If Sherchan were to get the job, it would only be to let the Nepali Congress factions to continue examining their necks for knottiness of the post-monarchy lumps.