THE rift between the Sushil Koirala and Sher Bahadur Deuba factions in Nepali Congress seems to be growing. Deuba, riled over the Central Working Committee’s decision to endorse the formation of 12 new departments and appointment of department chiefs without consultations with him, upped the ante against Koirala on Sunday, accusing the septuagenarian party president of being the main hindrance to party unity. A day earlier, the Deuba faction had registered its note of dissent over the CWC’s decision, which in its view went against the party policy of cooperation, consensus and unity. Make no mistake. The growing divide in NC will have deep repercussions on not just the party’s standing in national polity, but more importantly, on the creation of the much-needed consensus for a unity government.
It seems Deuba is still smarting from his defeat at the 12th General Convention in 2010 to Sushil Koirala. The reason, his critics allege, for his inflated sense of entitlement both at the party and national level. Deuba for his part has made no secret of his ambition to lead a new government as per the five point understanding that stipulated for the formation of a NC-led consensus government following the promulgation of constitution on May 27. It is believed Koirala has tacitly accepted the grassroots call to take up the top government job himself in order to prevent the rivalry for the same job between Deuba and senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel from getting out of hands. Whatever the case, washing the party’s dirty linen in public has certainly undermined its legitimate claim on government leadership.
The growing rift also buttresses the argument that with its own house divided, NC is in no position to lead a consensus government. As things stand, neither can Koirala afford to alienate Deuba to a point where the latter is forced to take drastic measures (as he did in 2002 through the formation of a separate party), nor can Deuba go at it alone given NC’s diminishing clout at the national level, as was evident by its distant second position in the CA polls. At this critical juncture, it is vital that NC steps up the plate as a responsible national player and works towards political consensus to replace the current caretaker government. But that won’t be possible unless Koirala and Deuba factions are ready to make some difficult compromises and commit to working together on the national agenda of peace and constitution. The latest attempts of Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal to play in the widening gap between the two factions should be a warning that if NC fails to close its ranks soon, the Maoists will have every excuse to defer consensus and play up the NC divide. As we have maintained all along and as President Ram Baran Yadav reminded the ruling coalition on Sunday, the majority government simply does not have the mandate to conduct new CA polls. In this situation, if NC fails to present a united front, the grand old party, we are afraid, will have failed in its single-biggest responsibility to take the country out of the current quagmire.