After Koirala who? The question plagues Nepal

March 21st, 2010 - 12:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, March 21 (IANS) With the death of Girija Prasad Koirala on the eve of the promulgation of a new constitution, the question of who would assume the mantle of leadership is plaguing Nepal.
Koirala, the architect of the peace process in Nepal that ended a decade of Maoist insurgency, also headed the Nepali Congress (NC), the largest party in the ruling coalition and the second-largest in parliament.

With the NC playing a vital role in Nepal’s politics, the future of the country and the fate of the new constitution will depend on the politician who is declared Koirala’s heir.

“For now, the party will be led by Sushil Koirala, who is its acting president,” said Arjun Narsingh KC, spokesman of the party.

“It is a democratic party and the new president will also be chosen in a democratic manner. The party convention will choose Girija Prasad Koirala’s successor.”

The date of the convention has been a contentious subject for months with Koirala himself seeking to put it off.

KC said the meeting is expected to be held within two to three months.

Sushil Koirala, a cousin of Koirala, is an old faithful who however is regarded more as the patriarch’s shadow than a leader in his own rights.

Recently recovered from cancer, the soft-spoken Sushil Koirala, who lost the election in 2008, is unlikely to receive support within the party or from the people.

The two major contenders for Koirala’s legacy are his former proteges. One of them, Ram Chandra Poudel, is a former deputy prime minister who was also elected chief of the parliamentary party.

The other claimant is former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who fell out with Koirala in the past and caused a vertical split in the party.

Though the two factions united ahead of the 2008 election, it was more a marriage of convenience and resulted in the party suffering a humiliating poll defeat at the hands of the Maoists.

The Koirala clan’s hat will also remain in the ring for leadership.

Two of Koirala’s nephews are MPs in the current parliament. One of them, Shekhar Koirala, had a meteoric rise in the party.

The third second-generation Koirala in the potential fray is Koirala’s daughter Sujata Koirala.

Though she lost the election, Sujata was appointed foreign minister after pressure from her heavyweight father. Subsequently, she also became deputy prime minister.

There is also a fresh challenge from other younger members, like maverick MP Narahari Acharya, who were not part of the Koirala clique and had been asking for democracy in the party.

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