Ganging up against Gagan Thapa

Sixteen days after winning the parliamentary elections, Gagan Thapa is facing hurdles within and outside the party on his journey to becoming a parliamentary party leader and future PM.

NL Today

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: During the election campaigns, he made it a key agenda of his future politics. He told the voters in his constituency and beyond that he would intervene in the leadership, that once elected he would challenge the old leadership within the party to become a prime minister.

Youth leaders and colleagues in his party supported him wholeheartedly. Bishwa Prakash Sharma, his colleague and another General Secretary of the party, went on public saying that he would be the one to propose Gagan Thapa as the leader of the parliamentary party and then as the prime minister of the country.

Swarnim Wagle, an eminent economist, and other intellectuals close to the party also campaigned for Gagan Thapa, projecting him as the next prime minister of the country.

Gagan Thapa won the election of House of Representatives from Kathmandu-4, with a wide margin of over 7000 votes. After winning the election on November 22, during his victory speech he said that he would start preparing for the parliamentary party election, the first step to cross to become the prime minister. 

Sixteen days later,Thapa faces several hurdles within and outside the party, if recent developments inside the party and in national politics is anything to go by. 

First, none of the top leaders in Nepali Congress, perhaps with the exception of Dr Shekher Koirala, appears keen to support him. There already are too many leaders inside the party who are aspiring to become the prime minister.

While the leader and spokesperson of Nepali Congress Prakash Sharan Mahat has publicly sneered at Gagan Thapa’s claim for parliamentary party leadership and prime minister, other leaders also seem noncommittal.

Prime Minister Deuba is lobbying with his leaders to become reelected as the parliamentary party leader. He has apparently taken Dr Sasank  Koirala into confidence.

“There is a kind of alliance building up against Gagan Thapa inside the party. They are not supporting him enough,” said Shankar Tiwari, who has been advocating for leadership change within Nepali Congress.  “It is basically a clash between the new school and old school within Nepali Congress. There are those who want to keep politics stagnant and there are those who want to take it forward,” he said. “Gagan Thapa represents a new school, new idea, new vision and new politics which is why those in old school are hell bent on stopping him.”

So who are those bent on stopping Gagan Thapa? Are they the old leaders? “Not necessarily,” said Tiwari. “It is basically the second generation leaders who fear that the rise of someone like Gagan Thapa in parliamentary party leadership will make their political future insecure.”

According to Tiwari, Congress should first define the mandate and the message of this election and the party should do serious soul-searching about why it failed to perform well enough. “Today’s mandate is in favor of Gagan Thapa.  Across the party line new faces have been preferred by the voters. This holds true in the case of Gagan Thapa as well.”

Meanwhile, the top leadership in the ruling alliance does not seem willing to let go of their hold onto power. They look bent on leading the top executive post by themselves. There are reports of Sher Bahadur Deuba, Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Nepal reaching an informal agreement to become the PM on rotational basis for the next five years.

So does this signal the possibility of the end of Gagan Thapa becoming the parliamentary leader and then the prime minister? Gururaj Ghimire, another Nepali Congress leader, does not agree. “It is too early to reach that conclusion now,” he said.  According to him, there will be a fair open competition for the leadership in the parliamentary party election.  “Gagan Thapa will contest. Party president might also contest. There will be a fair contest. Dr Shekher Koirala is also supportive of Gagan Thapa. A large majority of newly elected leaders within Congress will support Gagan Thapa.”

“If Gagan Thapa is stopped, it will be unfortunate for the party,” said Tiwari. “Gagan Thapa will keep fighting. They will have to accept this reality.”