Lawmaker buckles under pressure, clears ground for ‘desperate’ Bamdev

- TIKA R PRADHAN, Kathmandu
Manandhar says the party will decide if he was to quit. He would then hand in his resignation to the Speaker

Oct 10, 2018-The resignation of Kathmandu-7 lawmaker Rambir Manandhar to create ground for Bamdev Gautam to contest the election has stirred fresh controversy in the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP), which is beset with factional disputes.

Manandhar announced on Tuesday that he is giving up his seat to accommodate Gautam, a senior leader from his party. “I have handed in my resignation letter but the party will decide it on Saturday,” said Manandhar. “After the party’s decision, I will submit my resignation to the Speaker.”

Following his defeat from Bardiya-1 in the 2017 federal parliamentary election, Gautam has been looking desperately for ways to get into the House of Representatives. His defeat in Bardiya, his home constituency, despite a strong left alliance had surprised many political analysts. Manandhar’s announcement comes after Gautam approached around a dozen NCP lawmakers to vacate their seat for him.

After KP Sharma Oli formed the government in February, Gautam had floated the idea of a high-level development authority, expressing his desire to lead it.

However, his proposal did not materialise even when party Co-chairmen Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal viewed it positively.

After his defeat, Gautam was advised by many of his colleagues to join the National Assembly instead, as he would have no prospect of becoming the prime minister with Dahal waiting for the position.

The constitution would not bar him from taking up deputy prime minister’s responsibility as an Upper House member. But Gautam did not take the advice.

NCP sources told the Post that Gautam felt betrayed by Oli, ever since he played a crucial role in installing Oli as the party chairman as well as the prime minister. Oli is said to have promised Gautam the parliamentary party leader position if he became the party chairman or the prime minister.

The new development, according to party insiders, came after Dahal convinced Manandhar to quit Parliament for Gautam. Gautam has maintained cordial relations with Dahal since the insurgency days and was often criticised within the erstwhile CPN-UML for having a soft corner for the Maoists.

Gautam was among the key leaders who played a crucial role in the unification of the Left allies—UML and CPN (Maoist Centre). “Therefore, Dahal was waiting for an opportune moment to reciprocate Gautam’s favour,” said a senior NCP leader who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Manandhar said he had made an independent decision but many party cadres do not believe it. NCP leaders said Dahal had convinced Manandhar, who is loyal to Oli, to step down, luring him with a central committee position, a berth in the National Assembly, and a ministerial seat in future.

Surprised at the developments, some leaders opposed the idea at the secretariat meeting on Monday. Deputy Prime Minister Ishwor Pokhrel objected to the proposal when NCP General Secretary Bishnu Poudel read out the resignation letter submitted by Manandhar stating that he was ready to resign to create space for Gautam.

Some party leaders said by-election for the seat could backfire given a strong anti-government sentiment sweeping the country. Following the secretariat meeting, sources claimed that Prime Minister Oli discussed the matter with his close confidants, expressing dismay at the pace of things. “If defeated, it would not only shatter Gautam’s dream to become the PM but also damage the party’s image,” said a Standing Committee member, who did not want to be named because he was not authorised to discuss the details with the media.

However, Manandhar  tried to reassure the party leadership that Gautam won’t lose the poll given the strong base the party has in Kathmandu-7. The party secretariat meeting is expected to decide whether Gautam should be fielded from Kathmandu-7.

Published: 10-10-2018 07:25

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