After Koirala, what next?

Prakash Rimal

MARCH 21, KATHMANDU: Girija Prasad Koirala’s death leaves gaping holes that could have far-reaching impact on Nepali politics. The single dominant question on the public minds is: What happens next?

A lot depends on the intentions and actions of the political actors. The events unfolding within the Nepali Congress and across the broad political spectrum, made up largely of Maoists,
CPN-UML and Koirala’s own party, will determine the future course of the world’s youngest federal republic. Intentions and actions of the key leaders of these parties will determine the fate of the country tottering towards stability.

The Congress party appears most likely to plunge into a leadership crisis with contests between acting president Sushil Koirala, vice president Ram Chandra Poudel and senior leader Sher Bahadur Deuba, who once led a splinter faction Nepali Congress-Democratic. In the process, the party’s long overdue general convention, due to be held in August/September could be postponed again. Intra-party confusions could spill over into national politics, which doesn’t seem to have a mechanism to cope with the void that Koirala - also seen as the father figure of the peace process - has left. His departure also means that the Constituent Assembly (CA) will not be able to issue a new constitution by its May 28 deadline.

The towering leader is credited with bringing the Maoists to the political mainstream, leading the protests that brought down King Gyanendra’s authoritarian rule, organizing the CA election, and consigning the 240-year old monarchy to history.

The demise of “the tallest leader of South Asia,” in the words of Indian Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh, could potentially leave the fate of the High Level Political Mechanism in the doldrums, setting two key members — Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal-on confrontational mode, with UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal silently rising to the occasion to settle scores with Nepal. Such a scenario could further promote schism among the UML rank and file and widen the divide between and among that party’s top brass.

In addition, the only party that stands to ‘benefit’ or likely to make the most out of the crisis following Koirala’s death is
UCPN-Maoist. In the due course of time, as the nation comes out of the shock, Dahal is sure to step up efforts and campaign to dislodge his bête noire, Prime Minister Nepal. Moreover, as ever in the past, the politics could switch its focus more on making or breaking the government and less on writing a new constitution or taking the peace process to its ‘logical end’.

As Dahal said, Koirala’s death has left a vacuum in the period of political transition. For the moment, the country has lost former
US president Jimmy Carter’s “hero”, who championed “unity, consensus and working together.”

Truly, like Khanal stated in his condolence, the country needed his leadership now more than anytime in the past.


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