Kamal Thapa trips over dollars while picking up pennies

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Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal won a whopping 25 seats in the second Constituent Assembly (CA) election after the party of former monarchists had been limited to just four seats in the first.

RPP-N became the fourth largest party in the parliament winning seven percent of votes across the country in proportional representation (PR) system by raising the issue of Hindu state despite not winning a single seat in first-past-the-post (FPTP) system. This was a big comeback for Kamal Thapa who had been the captain of the sinking ship of Gyanendra regime and struggled with accusations of 'rat practice' for his past history of abandoning a sinking coalition/party to join a new one.

Thapa's RPP-N, that supported constitutional monarchy and Hindu state, was the main opposition party in essence in the CA that was firmly in favor of a republic and secular state.

The other party of former monarchists, RPP, on the other had won 12 seats including three in FPTP and nine in PR system. Kamal Thapa had the Hindu agenda with him while RPP was without any agenda. The two parties opted for unification after RPP adopted the agenda of Hindu state.

The two parties had unified on November 20, 2016 expecting to do better in the upcoming general election, and the general convention of unity that started on February 17 had elected a new leadership. Some had even expected the unified RPP to pip CPN (Maoist Center) in the upcoming general election to become the third largest party.

Thapa was the biggest winner from the unification as he became chairman of the party that had former monarchists much senior to him. His prestige and role in national politics had also increased as chairman of a bigger party. Thapa, who was foreign minister and deputy prime minister in the KP Oli government, again became DPM and local development minister in the Pushpa Kamal Dahal government.

With CPN-UML vehemently opposing constitution amendment, RPP held the keys to amendment. The latest split in the party in this manner has hit him the hardest. So much so that Thapa has lost at least 10 lawmakers he had nominated for PR system from RPP-N to the Pashupati Shumsher Rana faction after the split.

Names of Ram Kumar Subba, Babina Lawati, Biraj Bista, Resham Lama, Sita Luitel, Kamal Sharma, Leela Shrestha, Sanyandra Bantawa, Bhanu Mahara and Rajeshwari Singh--who were elected as lawmakers from RPP-N through PR system--have been included in the list of lawmakers that the Rana faction has submitted to the Election Commission for registration RPP-Prajatantrik. The Rana faction claims that two more lawmakers from erstwhile RPP-N will defect.

Losing just the 10 lawmakers included in the list submitted to the Election Commission would be a big blow for Thapa. Thapa, who led the fourth largest party in the parliament with 25 lawmakers even before unification, will now become chairman of the fourth largest one.

Rastriya Janata Party Nepal, formed recently after unification of six Madhes-based parties, currently has 24 seats. Similarly, Democratic Forum Nepal led by Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar has 17 and Federal Socialist Forum 15.

RPP-Prajatantrik, that the Rana faction has formed, claims it has 22 lawmakers. That means Thapa will have just 15 lawmakers in RPP.  

Thapa had gone for unification with hope of becoming a leader of a bigger party and to do better in the upcoming general election. But the split has left him much weaker and smaller than he was before unification.

It would have been virtually impossible for anyone to engineer a split in his party with support of 40 percent in both the central committee and parliamentary party, as required by the new anti-defection law, if RPP-N were a separate party now.

His status as the chairman of RPP-N was unchallengeable. He will now face a mountain of challenges to build RPP to the size of erstwhile RPP-N after this split. 

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