Nepali Congress takes to the streets

All photos: Bikram Rai/Nepali Times

After widespread criticism that the Nepali Congress (NC) was not playing the role of a loyal opposition at a time when the country is facing crises on multiple fronts, the party finally took the streets to assert its presence.

The NC has only 63 of the 275 seats in the Federal Parliament, and does not control any of the seven provincial governments.

Despite its majority, the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has been paralysed by infighting between its two top leaders, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal and party co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal.

The NCP government is widely perceived to have been a failure in governance, presided over corruption in high places, and in the inability to deliver services during the health and economic emergencies caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite this, the NC was seen to be immersed in its own power struggle between Sher Bahadur Deuba and Ram Chandra Poudel. It has not been able to fill the vacuum left by the NCP at a time when Hindu-right groups with tacit support from the Rastriya Prajatantra party (RPP) have been staging ever-bigger rallies across the country to scrap the secular republican constitution.

The NC appears to be wary about the RPP pulling the rug from underneath it, if it does not act.

Prime Minister Oli has used the Covid-19 crisis to keep Parliament in hibernation, and without the Lower House in session the NC had no option to take its protest to the streets.

Rallies have been held in Kathmandu and across the country on Monday, with tens of thousands of party workers participating. The protests have been largely peaceful, and Deuba called on his supporters to keep distance and wear masks -- although this call was largely ignored.

The NC also needed to show a unified front ahead of its Party Convention, and appears to be gearing up to cash in on the NCP's lack of performance for the next elections in 2022.

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