Race for President: Bidya Devi Bhandari and Jhala Nath Khanal in fray. Who is next?  


SAGAR KARKI, KATHMANDU, Jan 16: As the two parties of the left alliance CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center), who swept the recently concluded House of Representatives and Province Assembly election, are expediting talks for possible merger, concerns are on the table how the two parties will conclude the power sharing deal and leadership management in the party after merger.

It is almost certain that KP Oli, Chair of UML, which won 80 seats in House of Representatives election under first-past-the-post system, will be the next prime minister. Maoist Center Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal also seems contended with Oli heading the next government. But question also remains on the issue who will head the party?

Maoist leaders have demanded that Dahal should be handed the responsibility of party chair if Oli becomes the prime minister. Even though some leaders of UML seem to have agreed on Dahal heading the party, some leaders such as General Secretary Ishwor Pokhrel’s controversial remarks earlier last December that ‘prime minister, party chair and parliamentary party leader should be the same person’, added some mistrust between the two parties. Even though, Pokhrel corrected his statement saying it was his personal opinion, his remarks was one of the recipes for growing speculation on party merger process.

Besides, With President Bidya Devi Bhandari’s tenure due to expire in two months because of constitutional provision, the race for the position of President and House of Speaker are also open.

UML Chair Oli has been in mood to continue Bhandari’s tenure for the second term since she has served for only two years while the first President Ram Baran Yadav served for seven years. Maoist Center Chair Dahal has also made peace with Oli’s mood to continue Bhadari’s tenure for the next five years since Dahal has served no objection on the matter yet.

Also, President’s Bhandari’s hosting of dinner party to the entire family of Dahal and various other leaders of left alliance have also been described by various media as the strategy to lobby her tenure in the position for second term.

But UML sources say that, the UML leaders are divided over whether to continue Bhandari’s term for the second time or select a new leader.

Meanwhile, senior leader of UML, Jhala Nath Khanal and former House Speaker Subash Nembang are also on the fray. Khanal in a recent interview with Rishi Dhamala said that he was ready for any position, whether be it president, prime minister or party chief if the party hands him the responsibility. According to UML sources, Oli, if he cannot continue Bhandari’s tenure, is in the mood to select Subash Nembang for the presidential position.

But, another senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal is lobbying for Khanal for the position saying that Khanal’s proper management is crucial since he has already handled the responsibility of party chair and prime minister previously. According to Nepal, failing to manage Khanal to a dignified post could widen the faction after the unification.

It has also been understood that Chair Dahal is in the mood to lobby Maoist leader Ram Bahadur Thapa ‘Badal’ for the position.

Likewise, sources have said that voices have been raised to continue Vice-president Nanda Bahadur Pun’s tenure for the second term as Pun is a Janajati. Similarly, it is almost certain that one from either former Speaker Onsari Gharti Magar or Subash Chandra Nembang will be given the position of House of Speaker.