Race starts for Koirala’s mantle in Nepal

September 12th, 2010 - 5:04 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Sep 12 (IANS) While Nepal’s parliament has been witnessing a fight for more than two months to elect a new prime minister, a new race is in the offing now to choose a successor to late political giant Girija Prasad Koirala and a new head for one of the largest parties in the republic.

Koirala, a five-time prime minister and the architect of a peace accord which ended a decade of Communist insurgency, died in February at the age of 83. Till his death, he had remained the undisputed chief of the Nepali Congress, the largest party in the ruling alliance.

Now, almost six months after his death, the party holds its general convention from Sep 17 when members will elect new office bearers, including Koirala’s successor and deputy.

Dominated since its inception by the Koirala family that has given Nepal three prime ministers, the Nepali Congress now has three contenders for Koirala’s mantle.

The acting chief of the party and Koirala’s loyal cousin Sushil Koirala is expected to announce his candidacy officially Sunday.

Sushil Koirala, who kept the party together after Koirala’s death despite deep factionalism, will face his toughest challenge from Koirala’s past protégé and former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba.

Koirala and Deuba fell out almost a decade ago after the latter extended a period of emergency and was expelled from his party by Koirala. In retaliation, Deuba split the party and formed the Nepali Congress (Democratic), but returned to the party fold ahead of the election in 2008.

The third contender for Koirala’s hat is veteran leader Bhim Bahadur Tamang.

The five-day convention will also see a set of new deputies.

Sushil Koirala’s running mate is former minister Prakash Man Singh, who had been in Deuba’s faction in the past.

Deuba is now running with former education minister Bimalendra Nidhi while Tamang has chosen maverick leader Narahari Acharya.

Koirala’s daughter Sujata, the present foreign minister as well as deputy prime minister, decided not to contend for the two top jobs and is expected to offer conditional support to her uncle.

The Nepali Congress, India’s partner during the independence movement against British rule, remains close to India’s Congress party.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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