KATHMANDU, March 5: Nepali Congress, the main opposition party in parliament, has elected party President Sher Bahadur Deuba as its parliamentary party leader also.
Deuba has become the party's PP leader with 44 votes, securing the support of more than twice as many MPs as NC leader Prakash Man Singh, his only challenger for the post. The voting for PP leader was held at Singha Durbar from 10 am to 1 pm Monday.
Singh received 19 votes in the election. NC has 63 lawmakers in the 275 member House of Representatives. Of these, 23 were elected under the first-past-the-post category while 40 were elected under proportional representation.
NC had opted for a vote to choose the PP leader after a faction led by party senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel opposed Deuba's plan to assume the posts of both party leader and PP leader.
NC leaders Bal Krishna Khand and Bharat Kumar Shah had filed Deuba's candidacy. Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar proposed the candidacy while Man Bahadur Bishwakarma seconded it.
Similarly, Singh's candidacy for the post was proposed by Sita Devi Yadav and seconded by Sanjay Gautam.
Deuba's election has shown that his grip on the second largest party remains intact despite its stinging defeat in the three tiers of elections held in the past few months. According to observers, his victory comes as a great relief for Deuba, who is coming under growing pressure to step down following the poll debacle.
NC, the grand old party of the country, was defeated by an electoral alliance of UML and the Maoist Center in the parliamentary and provincial assembly elections held on November 26 and December 7.
The scale of Monday's victory means Deuba is likely to remain at the party's helm even if he summons the party's central working committee as demanded by another faction in the party. Over a dozen key leaders including Poudel, Singh and Gagan Thapa have called on Deuba to hand over the party leadership to a new face.
But some other leaders including NC General Secretary Sashank Koirala have remained neutral on the issue of leadership.
Hours after his victory, Deuba appointed Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar as the deputy parliamentary party leader.
Soon after being elected PP leader, Deuba hinted that the main opposition would intensify its scrutiny of the activities of the new government.
"It is customary to give the benefit of the doubt to the government for its first 100 days which is considered the honeymoon period. But the government has lost ground due to its activities. NC will strongly oppose such activities," said Deuba, a four-time former prime minister.