Gagan Thapa-Bishwa Prakash Sharma bond: Can it trigger a generational shift in Nepali Congress?

Gagan Thapa and Bishwa Prakash Sharma Nepali Congress
L-R: Gagan Thapa and Bishwa Prakash Sharma

After winning as a lawmaker for the fourth time, Nepali Congress General secretary Gagan Thapa has said he will be now preparing to become the parliamentary party leader as the next step to his Mission PM. His decision immediately received support from the other general secretary, Bishwa Prakash Sharma. 

“I will support Thapa and recommend him for the prime ministership,” says Sharma. Sharma, who will be entering into parliament for the first time, has expressed this thought even before the elections. 

Likewise, the party’s other youth leader Pradip Paudel has also been elected from Kathmandu-5 as a House of Representatives. He still has not said anything about the parliamentary party leader and future prime minister.

But, analysts have already connected Paudel also to the Thapa-Sharma bond with the hope that the unity among them could result in a generational shift in the grand old party. But, how possible will it be?  

Weighing possibilities

L-R: Nepali Congress leaders Sher Bahadur Deuba and Ram Chandra Paudel

It has been learned that old leaders of the party have already been alarmed by Gagan Thapa’s vow to fight for the parliamentary party leader and Bishwa Prakash Sharma’s support in his bid. Hence, they are busy weighing all possible equations for the next government formation.

According to the party leaders, if the current coalition of the Nepali Congress, CPN-Maoist Centre, CPN-Unified Socialist, Rastriya Janomorcha and Loktantrik Samajbadi Party will get a majority to form a government, Sher Bahadur Deuba will once again be the prime minister.

Apparently, Thapa cannot defeat Deuba in the race to lead the parliamentary party because most of the candidates in both first-past-the-post and proportional elections are from the Deuba faction. 

But, if the coalition does not get a majority and the Maoist Centre does not come in as the third party, Gagan Thapa has some possibility to defeat Deuba as the new coalition partners, which will be decisive in making or breaking the government, might pressurise the five-time PM to consider a generational shift.

Urge for an urgent shift

Rabi Lamichhane announces Rastriya Swatantra Party.
Rabi Lamichhane announces Rastriya Swatantra Party.

Rastriya Swatantra Party President Rabi Lamichhane has already indicated that he would support a new face for forming the government. This means the new entrant in the parliament will not support Sher Bahadur Deuba instead of Gagan Thapa. This has mounted pressure on the NC senior leaders Prakash Man Singh and Ram Chandra Paudel also as they are also vying for the top position. 

If the ruling coalition fails to form a government, the CPN-UML may take the initiative. But, it seems the RSP or other independent candidates will only support the party that will introduce a new face for prime ministership. 

In such a situation, there will be a dilemma about whether to support the new face of Gagan Thapa to form a government or let the UML take the charge.

As this debate is already taking place within the party, many new lawmakers including Pradip Paudel may support Thapa.

Leaders already cautioned  

Hence, some senior leaders of the party have already started holding informal meetings about the future government and equations. According to leaders, Prakash Man Singh, Ram Chandra Paudel and Sher Bahadur Deuba already had a meeting, immediately after Gagan Thapa announced to run for the position of parliamentary party leader. The meeting led by Singh discussed the need for three leaders to go together for the party’s parliamentary leader. 

“The three leaders had a discussion that only one of them will go forward for the parliamentary party leader,” says a leader anonymously. 

Meanwhile, some leaders have assumed that if Thapa will create a strong atmosphere in his favour, the senior leaders can delegate Pradip Paudel to compete against him (Thapa). 

Paudel is considered a strong contender for Thapa. In this case, the senior leaders would attempt to break the bond between Thapa and Paudel and make them vie against each other for the party’s parliamentary leader. 

However, Sher Bahadur Deuba, Prakash Man Singh and Ram Chandra Paudel are not ready to hand over the leadership to the second generation. In this context, Pradip Paudel can assist Gagan Thapa.

As the RSP can play a decisive role in forming a government, its party leaders have already reached out to the Congress leaders for a dialogue. Apparently, joining hands for a government is an issue.

This story was translated from the original Nepali version and edited for clarity and length.

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Bajagain is a sub-editor at Onlinekhabar, looking into parliamentary and judicial issues.

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