After parting ways with Congress-led alliance, Madhav Kumar Nepal faces moral, legal questions

Madhav Kumar Nepal

Ashim Neupane

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: Few hours after the Supreme Court overturned K P Sharma Oli’s decision to dissolve the House of Representatives, thereby reinstating the House, and issued the mandamus order to President Bidya Devi Bhandari to appoint the leader of opposition alliance Sher Bahadur Deuba prime minister of the country on Monday, Madhav Kumar Nepal, a key leader from the opposition alliance, declared that he will no longer remain with the opposition alliance.

Madhav Kumar Nepal was instrumental in building the opposition alliance to challenge the Oli-led government.  Over 20 MPs from his faction of CPN-UML had put signatures in the application that was submitted to President Bhandari on May 21 demanding that Deuba should be appointed PM, before parliament was dissolved that day.

Besides, Madhav Nepal faction leaders were the signatories of the petition filed at the Supreme Court on May 24 that demanded reinstatement of parliament and appointment of Deuba as the prime minister.

Madhav Nepal is one of the signatories of the petition. Now the same leader has declared to sever ties with the opposition alliance.

Legal experts and political observers say this will have a repercussion on the government to be formed under Deuba’s leadership and it also raises moral and legal questions on part of Madhav Nepal.

In a way, the Court has addressed the demand of opposition leaders like Nepal by reinstating parliament and issuing orders to appoint Deuba as the prime minister. Now to not support Deuba could be tantamount to not accepting the court verdict, even showing disrespect toward the court, say legal experts. 

Legal experts and political observers say this will have a repercussion on the government to be formed under Deuba’s leadership and it also raises moral and legal questions on part of Madhav Nepal.

According to Senior Advocate Harihar Dahal, the Madhav Nepal faction, if it refuses to give a vote of confidence to Sher Bahadur Deuba, will face a moral question for not accepting the verdict of the court which he demanded. “The Nepal faction has signed in a letter to the President demanding Sher Bahadur Deuba must be appointed the Prime Minister as per Article 76(5). The faction has also signed writ petitions filed at the Supreme Court,” said Dahal. “Now if the faction does not support Sher Bahadur Deuba in a floor test, it will be a disrespect to the court’s verdict,” he said.

The Madhav Nepal faction “must” support Deuba, if they don’t, questions will be raised against them, he added. 

As per the constitutional provision, Sher Bahadur Deuba will have to secure a vote of confidence from parliament within 30 days from the day of his swearing-in today.

Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba has already been appointed the prime minister earlier today.

Deuba will need the support of 136 MPs to secure a confidence vote. After the Madhav Nepal faction (which commands 23 votes) defects from the opposition alliance, the opposition alliance will have only 123 votes with it. Deuba will be able to secure a confidence vote only if Mahantha Thakur-Rajendra Mahato faction of Janata Samajwadi Party Nepal (JSPN) stands ready to vote for him, which is unlikely.

In that case, Deuba’s government will face a confidence crisis a month after its formation, for which lack of support from the Madhav Nepal faction will be directly responsible. In that case, Madhav Nepal will be seen as a leader who played a role in toppling down the government led by his own party, who supported the opposition leader to become the PM but who finally ditched the opposition leader too.

“That surely raises a moral question on Madhav Kumar Nepal and company but the court verdict does not impel them to stick to the opposition alliance and support Deuba in the confidence vote,” said Bipin Adhikari, constitutional expert and commentator. “If the verdict had clearly said that the party cannot impose a whip on the signatories of the petition, it would probably have been a different case,” he said.

According to him, Madhav Nepal and MPs close to him can abstain from voting, vote for Deuba or vote against Deuba. “That’s a parliamentary process. They can choose to vote for Deuba or against him in the confidence vote.”

However, political analyst Hari Roka believes that the Madhav Nepal faction will support Deuba in his floor test. 

“It will be immoral on part of the Nepal faction not to give a confidence vote to Deuba who has become the  PM today mainly because of the support of the Madhav Nepal faction,” said Roka. 

“The faction will support Deuba. The Nepal faction leaving the alliance doesn’t mean they will not support Deuba. We have to understand that Deuba is becoming the PM because of the support of 26 lawmakers of the Nepal faction,” he added.