KATHMANDU, August 7: “I’ve worked as the Number 2 from the grassroots. I’ve not been able to work as the Number 1 till date. I am not greedy. If I become the Number 1, I’ll show that a leader without greed can work when he reaches a certain position. I’ll show my work.” This is a statement of former Nepali Congress (NC) General Secretary, Prakash Man Singh.
After the government announced the provincial and House of Representatives elections for November 20th, in a program held in the capital on Saturday, former General Secretary Singh expressed his desire to become the Prime Minister after the upcoming elections. Singh, who has held posts such as Deputy Prime Minister of the government and NC Vice-president, contested for the chairmanship of the party in its 14th General Convention. But after failing to be elected to the party’s chairmanship, Singh who is a member of the House of Representatives from Kathmandu-1, has said that he will be endorsed by the people again in the next election and become the Prime Minister and work selflessly for the country and its people. Singh, who has a long experience as a people’s representative, fears that he might not be endorsed by the people in the upcoming elections. Saying that although he has worked for the people but not advocated about his work, he said, “Looking at the election results, it seems that the saying that one who speaks gets better results than one who doesn’t is true.”
In the 2017 federal elections, Singh was elected by a small margin of votes. In the local elections held on 13th of May, the number of votes obtained by the ward chairpersons contesting from the NC seem to be more only by a few hundred votes than their opponents. There is a factional dispute within the Congress. If the UML and the Rastriya Prajatantra Party form an alliance in the upcoming provincial and House of Representatives elections, the results will not be in Singh's favor, based on the votes received by the Congress ward chairpersons in the local elections held on May 13.
Apart from that, there is a separate provision in the selection of the Prime Minister according to the constitution and the parliamentary procedure. But the Congress leaders, including Singh, have started to appear as if the date of the Prime Minister's election has been announced for November 20, not the provincial and representative assembly elections. Congress General Secretary Gagan Kumar Thapa is also seen as a ‘wannabe prime minister’. Thapa has been saying that the first level leaders of the party should take leave in the upcoming elections and hand over the government and party leadership to the next generation.
After the 2008 Constituent Assembly election, Thapa, who worked as a representative of Kathmandu and later Kathmandu-4, said that he would run for the Prime Minister after the next election, and claimed that there are discussions within the party about that. “I gained experience as a member of the House of Representatives and as a minister. I think this experience will help me to take leadership. Now a debate has started within the party that the first-generation leader should seek a dignified exit," Thapa said at an event held in the capital on Saturday, “I have already discussed to some extent within the party about the next generation taking over the leadership."
Thapa did not reveal which leaders of the party he discussed the matter with, but another general secretary of NC, Bishwa Prakash Sharma, has made a public statement that he will propose Thapa as the prime minister. It is not unusual for every person involved in politics to want to become the executive head of the country or the head of state. In that too, one of the two young leaders who have potential is being prepared for the Prime Ministership and the other is being seen as a proponent.
But if we look at the results of the local level elections held on 13th of May, the votes of Congress are fewer in Thapa's Kathmandu-4 and Sharma's Jhapa-1. Although Thapa is certain to contest the polls from Kathmandu-4, Sharma's candidacy from Jhapa-1 is not yet certain. In the previous election, Maoist leader Ram Karki was elected from there. Even if the current five-party alliance remains in place, if there is an electoral coalition between the UML and the RPP, the opposition alliance will be ahead in both constituencies based on the results of the local elections. Although the opposition is ahead by a few hundred votes in Thapa's constituency, the gap in Jhapa-1 from where Sharma is expected to contest the polls, is more than that.
Also, it is not enough to be a member of the House of Representatives to become the Prime Minister or to be a proponent or supporter. It is necessary to be elected as the leader of the parliamentary party, and in order to form the government according to Article 76 (1) of the constitution, the party must get a majority, otherwise, to form the government according to Article 76 (2), the party in the parliament must also win the trust. Not only Singh and Thapa but also leader Ramchandra Paudel is in the race for the prime ministership. But the aspirant leader first has to win the election as a member of the House of Representatives, and in addition to being elected as the leader of the parliamentary party, there is also the challenge of proving the majority in parliament.
Paudel had put himself forward as the Prime Minister in the 2017 election. But he was defeated in the election to the House of Representatives when the UML and the Maoist Center had an electoral synergy. Dissatisfied with his close ones, Paudel is hoping to be promoted by the party as the Prime Minister or President after the next election after being turned away from competing for the party chairmanship in the 14th general convention of the party. Paudel, who did not appear anywhere in the convention, has been wishing to become the prime minister or president in the latter part of his life with the help of Deuba. But Paudel, who has not said anything about it in public, is preparing to become a candidate again from Tanahu-1. Even though those close to him have been suggesting he be elected through proportional representation, Paudel is not ready for that.
Vice President of NC, Purna Bahadur Khadka, who is in the role of a ‘shadow president’, is also planning to take the place of Sher Bahadur Deuba after the next election. Khadka has not participated in the decision-making process within the party for a long time. Shekhar Koirala, who contested for the chairmanship of the party in its 14th General Convention by leading the rival group in the party, will also present himself as the Prime Minister. Former Vice President of the party, Bimalendra Nidhi, former General Secretaries Shashank Koirala and Krishna Prasad Sitaula are also in favor of promoting themselves as the Prime Minister when given the opportunity. But Sher Bahadur Deuba, who has emerged as a powerful chairman from the 14th convention of the party, seems to want to become the prime minister even after the next election. According to those close to him, Deuba, who keeps saying that his astrologer has predicted that ‘you will become the prime minister seven times’, will promote himself as the prime ministerial candidate from the party even after the next election.