KATHMANDU, Dec 13: Pressure is mounting on Nepali Congress (NC) President Sher Bahadur Deuba to hand over the helm of the party to a new leader in the wake of the grand old party’s stinging defeat in parliamentary and provincial elections.
With 80 percent of votes already counted as of Tuesday evening, the NC looks headed for a crushing defeat at the hands of the left alliance which has secured almost two-thirds seats.
Pressure started mounting on the NC leadership to make way for a new generation of leaders soon after it became evident that the party was trailing a distant third to UML and CPN (Maoist Center).
Gagan Thapa, who was elected for the federal parliament from Kathmandu-4, was the first leader to demand ‘voluntary retirement’ of the party leadership. Thapa, who has stressed on the need of complete overhaul of the party leadership and organization, has asked Deuba to call a special general convention to discuss the poll debacle. He has hinted that he would challenge the party president if he refuses to step down.
Besides Thapa, a number of NC leaders including senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel, General Secretary Shashank Koirala, Prakash Man Singh and Bishwa Prakash Sharma have called on Deuba to step down. All of these leaders are considered as the major contenders for the top post after Deuba’s departure.
Talking to media during his victory rally on Monday, Singh said that the party president should take responsibilities of the election loss and gracefully retire.
“The current leadership has lost moral authority to lead the party with the poll debacle. The leadership should make way clear for a new face to head the party,” said Singh, who has long been projecting himself as the party president-in-waiting.
Deuba or his close associates have not given any indication that there would be transfer of power.
“There won’t be any change in the leadership. Not just Deuba, the entire party rank and file should take the responsibility for the loss. Deuba will remain in power even if the party goes to a special general convention,” NC leader Bal Krishna Khand told reporters during an interaction held in the capital on Tuesday.
Leaders close to Deuba had argued against change in leadership citing lack of unanimous candidate to replace Deuba. They claim that there would be chaos in the party even if Deuba steps down. Three different factions led by Deuba, Poudel and Krishna Sitaula have been asserting their claim on the party leadership.
While it is too early to say whether Deuba would resign, it is certain to weaken Deuba’s grip on the party. Many fear that the defeat would further deepen the already wide rift in the party.