Kathmandu: Pushpa Kamal Dahal secured support from 268 MPs out of a total of 270 MPs present in the House session to cast a confidence vote on Tuesday.
He did not need these many votes to rule the country as the PM. He could do with 138 votes. He already had secured the support of 169 lawmakers including from the CPN-UML. CPN-UML with 78 members, Maoist Centre with 32, the Rastriya Swatantra Party with 20, the Rastriya Prajatantra Party with 14, the Janata Samajbadi Party with 12, the Janamat Party with six, the Nagarik Unmukti Party with four [including one independent] seats and three independent lawmakers were supporting him.
Only Madhav Nepal led CPN (Unified Socialist) with 12 seats and Mahantha Thakur’s Loktantrik Samajbadi Party, with four seats, were indecisive. Nepali Congress, with 89 seats, looked resolute against giving a vote of confidence to Dahal until Monday.
All of these parties made a dramatic volte-face on Tuesday and stood united to vote for Dahal.
As a result, Dahal has received a vote of confidence from an unprecedented number of MPs in parliament. He is the only PM in modern history to receive 268 out of 270 confidence votes in parliament.
How long this unprecedented support to the PM will last and what tradeoffs the parties made in exchange will probably unfold in few days but, for the moment, with 268 MPs giving him a confidence vote, Dahal has stood out as a winner, the leader who had the last laugh and who gained a lot politically and personally.
Dahal has set a precedent of being an unreliable partner in coalition politics in the past, on more occasions than one. After the constitution promulgation in 2015, he has helped other parties form the coalition governments which he himself helped to unseat a few months later. He has done so with both Nepali Congress and CPN-UML.
With the thumping endorsement of Dahal, political parties have now projected him as a person everyone can rely on and helped him build the image of the leader accepted by all the parties.
In the process, political parties have lost moral high ground to hold him accountable for his past conduct. For example, they have also lost the moral high ground to raise the issue of war crimes during the Maoist insurgency. With all out support for him, other political parties lost the space to raise the transitional justice issue and to hold Dahal accountable.
Besides, if Dahal and his government fail to deliver, political parties will no longer be in a position to blame him alone for the failures. They too will have to share the failures.
Tuesday’s event marks a new case in terms of ideology and politics. The political parties who voted for him gave the message that all parties share the ideology of Maoists and Maoists share the ideology of other parties. This ideological decay can be costly for the public image of other parties.Whether Dahal won the confidence of all or others got carried away by Dahal is a matter of guess but with all political actors rallying around him, Dahal has become able to silence all critics among the political parties, for there are only two faces in the opposition at the moment.