Yet another Musical Chairs in Kathmandu

3 Min
Yet another Musical Chairs in Kathmandu

By Rattan Saldi

Political instability continues to haunt Nepal with the Himalayan country all set to witness another coalition regime.  Ushering in the new round of musical chairs, Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) has pulled out of Prachanda’s coalition government, and decided to close ranks with arch rival Nepali Congress (NC). 

All the eight CPN-UML ministers including the Deputy Prime Minister Raghubir Mahaseth have sent their resignations to Prime Minister Pushp Kamal Dahal minutes after their deadline for his resignation expired on Wednesday, July 3. 

At the time of writing, Prachanda was in no mood to quit without facing Parliament.    The trial of his strength will take place in all likelihood on 12 July.

Politics is the game of the possible; it is an art of springing surprises besides displaying an ability to publicly pocket pride and prejudice to the dismay of rival.

This is what the oldest party, Nepali Congress, and the old warrior, CPN-UML did

NC chief Sher Bahadur Deuba and CPN-UML supremo K P Sharma Oli met on Monday, July 1 night and prepared their blue print for a “Federal Government of National Consensus”.

A day earlier they agreed to forge an alliance. Well, that was the speed of the fast-paced developments that Kathmandu took by surprise.

Cut to the Nov 2022 general election.

It was a split verdict.  

Moving fast, Prachanda cobbled together a ruling coalition with Nepali Congress, Rashtriya Swatantar Party, Nepal Communist Party (United Socialist) and some fringe parties on 26 December.

Fifteen months later, in March 2024, Prachanda ditched Nepali Congress and joined hands with the CPN (UML) to form a new coalition government.

Whether he rubbed Oli on the wrong side or whether Oli was unhappy with the way Prachanda functioned is a moot point but the reality is Oli has hit the break button over the national budget, dubbing it as the ‘Maoist budget’. He was also not happy over some top civil and diplomatic appointments. Discord over “some state issues” precipitated the end of the coalition within four months.

The broad contours of NC-UML power sharing deal are still unwrapped publicly. However, reports suggest that Oli and Deuba would take turns till the next general elections in 2027.

It would mean Oli leads the new combine in the first half of the remaining tenure of Parliament and Deuba during the second. Both sides agreed to share ministerial berths.

High on their agenda is a Constitutional amendment to remove what they consider as bottlenecks to better governance. An Advisory Committee led by a former Chief Justice would be set up to suggest the amendment.

Admittedly, Prachanda camp is not pleased by the sudden change in their fortunes. This is clear from the resolve of a high-level meeting of the Maoist Centre that Prime Minister Prachanda should not resign but should face Parliament for a trust vote.

Article 100 (2) of Nepal Constitution provides that if the ruling political party is divided or a political party in the coalition withdraws its support, the Prime Minister shall table a motion in the House of Representatives (Lower House of Parliament) for a vote of confidence within 30 days.  

As already stated, Prachanda has decided to test his tryst with trust on July 12.

He is not unaware that the numbers are not in his favour.

His party Maoist Centre has only 32 members.  The parties still sticking to him, namely, Rashtriya Swatantar Party with 20 members, and some other fringe parties together do not take him to the magic figure of 138 in a House of 275.

UML has 78 law makers while the Nepali Congress is the single largest party with 89 members and together account for 167 members – more than the half way mark.

Put simply the odds are not in Prachanda favour. Only a miracle can save his government. But it is doubtful whether as an ardent Maoist, he believes in miracles.  

Both Oli and Deuba have started approaching fringe parties in Parliament to form a government of National consensus. Janata Samajwadi Party, JSP, is the first off the block to close ranks with them.

While the narrative for a National Consensus government, a first in Nepal, is welcome, how the Centrist Nepali Congress and the ultra-leftist UML survive together the hurly-burly of politics is difficult to crystal gaze.

One thing is clear though.  

Their diagonally opposite ideologies will not be conducive to the geopolitical situation, more so since Nepal is sandwiched between two giants, China in the North and India in the South.

Oli and his UML are known for leaning towards China; the GOP, Nepali Congress is traditionally and historically considered close to India.  

Other parties being roped in have their own ideological moorings, divergent of both Nepali Congress and the UML.

How all this will impact on peace and stability in the country is a moot point.

This much can be said without fear of contradiction, as of now that the emerging    situation may not be good for the health of democracy in Nepal.

And political stability will remain a mirage unless a common minimum programme is worked out and strictly adhered to by the new coalition partners. 

From all accounts, Nepal has entered a new tumultuous phase; there is going to be no dull moment in the days to come what with opportunistic politics at work###