Kathmandu: On 24 June, Nepali Congress (NC) general secretary Gagan Kumar Thapa indicated the possible changes in Nepal’s current government coalition. ‘If the existing ruling alliance fails to deliver, the new one will be in place to form the new government,’ he said at a function in Kathmandu.
The incumbent coalition government comprises Nepali Congress, Maoist Center, Unified Socialist and other fringe parties.
The whip of the main opposition party Communist Party of Nepal–Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) Mahesh Bartaula, on 21 June, had also claimed that the current government would lose the majority in a week if his party wished to do so.
The issue of possible changes in the existing ruling alliance has also become a cause of discontent to the ruling alliance leader. Former Prime Minister and chairperson of Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Socialist) Madhav Kumar Nepal criticized CPN-UML chairperson KP Sharma Oli for his alleged involvement in the game of toppling the government.
‘KP Oli and his party CPN-UML do not want communist unity. Oli wants the government under Nepali Congress leadership. He is trying to form a new government under the leadership of NC president Sher Bahadur Deuba, comprador capitalist,’ he said.
Nepal’s Unified Socialist is a coalition partner in the government in which Nepali Congress remains as the largest political force.
While some leaders have publicly expressed their dissatisfaction over the existing ruling alliance, some privately confess that the shift in the existing ruling alliance is possible in a few weeks.
How it started
Formally, debate on the possible changes in the existing ruling alliance began after Nepali Congress President and former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba left for Singapore for medical treatment on June 14.
Though Deuba’s secretariat has said that the visit was for the purpose of a regular health check-up, political actors, and media reports suggest the purpose was beyond the stated one–political.
Some observers and commentators have linked his visit to an alleged attempt to create an environment conducive to forming a new alliance–with Nepali Congress and CPN-UML forming the government.
Second tier leaders of NC and UML are believed to have played a vital role in convincing their party bosses to create an alternative coalition.
The formation of Socialist Morcha led by the ruling Maoist Center was, however, a major cause to make Nepali Congress skeptical about the intentions of the Maoist and other forces. Some attribute the formation of the Socialist Front to China’s influence to keep one united communist force in place in Nepal.
Rumors or realities?
Soon after his return from Singapore, a joint meeting was held among Nepali Congress president Deuba, Prime Minister Pushpakamal Dahal and CPN (Unified Socialist) chairperson Madhav Kumar Nepal. All the leaders explicitly dismissed the possibility of changes in the existing alliance.
But things are not clear yet. And it is yet to be seen whether the prospect of formation of a new coalition is likely or it is just a political strategy of Nepali Congress to keep Prime Minister CPN-Maoist under pressure.
First, it is rare for the first and second largest forces of the parliament to build a government coalition given the political rivalry. In this regard, it is less likely that the NC and UML will come together to form the new government.
Second, the strategy can be a tactical move of the Nepali Congress to keep Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal under pressure to act at the behest of Nepali Congress.
Third, some of CPN-Moist leaders privately share that Nepali Congress leaders are not happy with the government’s stand to initiate action against leaders involved in the fake Bhutanese refugee scam. The investigation of the scam is not over yet. As such, Maoist leaders could be trying to establish a narrative that both NC and UML want to topple the government as influential leaders from both parties will come under the radar in the second phase of investigation.
In an interaction with representatives of Press Center, a journalist wing affiliated with CPN (Maoist-Center) on June 14, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal also indicated that the ruling alliance is on shaky ground due to investigation of a fake refugee scam. “Leaders from two major parties [NC and UML] are directly linked with the scam. But we do not compromise on corruption cases. Instead, we are ready to leave the government,” he said.
Fourth, the second generation leaders of both NC and UML, according to observers, are sincerely putting efforts to change the coalition. According to a leader of Nepali Congress, the undue bargaining power of third or fourth or even smaller political forces will come to an end if NC and UML will stand together. “It is definitely unlikely for the first and second political forces to come together. But UML and Congress standing together to build a new coalition can be a turning point in Nepal’s political history to end undue influences of fringe parties in the government affairs,” a leader close to CPN-UML told Nepal Live Today on condition of anonymity.
Though the 2021 general elections gave the mandate for a coalition government–with no political party gaining enough seats to form the government on its own–the coalition after the election has been a shaky one. The UML-Maoist Center coalition reached after the election did not last for even two months. The coalition which elected Prachanda the PM in December, 2021 fell apart in February, 2022 after the Maoist Center switched alliance to Nepali Congress.
As building and breaking of alliances has become a routine exercise in Nepal, the talks of new Congress-UML coalition have left many to guess whether it is indeed a real prospect or just a speculation.