After CPN-UML decided to put forward its party chairman KP Sharma Oli as the candidate for the prime minister, the party leaders have repeatedly questioned the ruling coalition and asked who is its candidate for the prime minister.
At the forefront of asking such questions is UML General Secretary Shankar Pokhrel. Pokhrel, who was a key player in the decision, has been asking the leaders of the ruling coalition from the public platforms: Who is the future prime minister of the five-party coalition?
The party central committee meeting held on August 27 decided to go to the November 20 elections by again hailing Oli as the leader of the government if it gets a chance.
When the leaders of the ruling coalition did not show interest in answering, Oli stepped forward and challenged Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to face him in a live debate and discuss their agenda. On October 18, he wrote on his social media accounts, “I am ready for this, are you, Deubaji?”
The ruling coalition, however, which made a public appeal to vote for the coalition’s candidates, has neither announced its candidate for the future PM nor shown interest in the election debate. So, who will lead the next government if the coalition wins?
Keeping it hush-hush
But, then, the leaders who do not want to announce the future prime minister have started to present themselves as contenders for the post.
Nepali Congress General Secretary Gagan Thapa has announced that he will contest the parliamentary party election after the general elections for the prime minister’s position. He says, “This year, we will compete for the premiership. I don’t know if it can be done or not.”
Thapa is also supported by another general secretary, Bishwa Prakash Sharma. He says he is ready to nominate Thapa for the PM after being elected as a member of parliament.
Senior Congress leader Ram Chandra Paudel has not hidden his desire to become the prime minister in recent days. He has expressed his desire and courage to work in executive positions in public forums.
CPN-Maoist Centre Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has also presented himself as a contender in the race. In a recent interview on Himalaya TV, he says, “If the opportunity arises, I have an aspiration to show what I have in store to lead the country and establish what is about economic development.”
According to the leaders, while there are many contenders for the premiership in the coalition, power-sharing might also depend on the election results. Therefore, the coalition will announce the prime ministerial candidate only after the elections. “We are all united and focused on the elections to get a majority in the parliament. At this time, rather than talking about anything else, we are focused on the current goal is to secure the majority,” says Nepali Congress leader Paudel.
Senior Maoist Centre vice-chairperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha also says that they are now focusing on the elections. “There has not been any discussion among the coalition about the prime minister or the structure of the government. We are focused on forming a coalition government.”
Musical chairs, again!
The leaders of the ruling coalition have said that the overall consensus on “power sharing” will be reached only after the elections.
However, there seems to be almost a consensus on sharing the term of the premiership. “I have found an understanding between the leaders,” says Paudel.
Nepali Congress central member Min Bahadur Bishwakarma also hopes for the sharing of the term for the premiership. After the elections, the first government will be led by the Congress, he informs. During the next reshuffle, the prime minister may be from the Maoists in the second turn.
In the rotation, Deuba can put forward his name from Congress. But, he is sure to face a challenge in the parliamentary party. Bishwakarma, a leader close to Deuba, says, “There are plenty of aspirants, but a majority should be secured in the parliamentary party. The one who can convince many parliamentarians becomes the prime minister.”
In the Maoist Centre, Dahal does not have any competitors to block him. Shrestha says, “We are hopeful that Prachanda (Dahal) will be the prime minister of the next government.”
This story was translated from the original Nepali version and edited for clarity and length.