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Political course unclear despite Nepali Congress decision to unseat Oli

REPORT-3.04-05

A day after the primary opposition, Nepali Congress, decided to take the initiative to unseat Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and form a coalition government under its leadership, Nepal Communist Party (Maoist Centre) and Janata Samajbadi Party, whose support it needs, have welcomed the decision.

However, it is not yet clear how that will happen.

“If the Maoist Centre and the Janata Samajbadi lend their support to us, there is no doubt we will take the initiative to unseat Oli by bringing up a no-confidence motion against him,” Nepali Congress Vice-president Bimalendra Nidhi told the Post. “Earlier too, we had sought their support but the Samajbadi Party had remained undecided. So we couldn't get the required support to unseat Oli.”

Without the support of the Janata Samajbadi Party, with its 32 seats, forming a new government will be almost impossible, according to him.

The Janata Samajbadi is divided—whether it should go along with Oli, who is courting the party, or unseat the prime minister.

A faction of the party, led by Chairman Mahantha Thakur and senior leader Rajendra Mahato, considered to be close to Oli has been holding negotiations with him.

But the other faction, led by the other party chair Upendra Yadav and chairman of the party’s federal council Baburam Bhattarai, is averse to joining hands with Oli.

Janata Samajbadi Party, born out of a merger between the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal and the Samajbadi Party Nepal in April last year, has yet to maKe its position public after the Nepali Congress decided to overthrow the Oli government.

“Since Oli dissolved the House, like within the Nepali Congress we also have two different views,” a Samajbadi Party central leader said on condition of anonymity. “That has not changed.”

Yadav has called a meeting of the party’s parliamentary committee on Sunday to take a decision on the matter, he added.

“Finally, Nepali Congress’s signal to play the role of the opposition is commendable. Let other opposition parties also not forget their duty. Parties have their own agendas but above all are the country, people and the imperative/primacy of democracy,” Bhattarai, the former prime minister wrote on Twitter on Saturday. “The foremost priority today is the removal of Oli.”

The Janata Samajbadi Party has a number demands that it wants fulfilled or wants assurances on before it joins one side or the other. Among these are the release of its lawmaker Resham Chaudhary, who is facing a sentence of life imprisonment over the August 2015 riots in Tikapur in which nine people were killed, and other leaders, withdrawal of cases filed against its leaders and cadres for their involvement in the Tarai uprising of 2015-16, and an amendment to the constitution.

“I still doubt Samajbadi Party will join hands with the Nepali Congress until it gets credible assurances that our demands will be fulfilled,” the JSP leader said. “If the Maoist Centre decides to withdraw its support to Oli, we will be under pressure to support the Nepali Congress bid but cannot be assured.”

For the moment, the Maoist Centre is yet to withdraw the support it gave to the CPN-UML when Oli became the prime minister in February 2018. The two parties had merged to form the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) in May 2018 but on March 7 the Supreme Court invalidated the merger and revived the UML and the Maoist Centre.

Oli on Saturday challenged the Maoist Centre to withdraw its support.

“I will resign, if you withdraw support,” Oli said at a function in Kathmandu. “I am not going to put in my papers but if the support is withdrawn, I will resign.”

He added that the opposition parties have sought his resignation in the past as well and such demands do not bother him much.

Oli’s remarks have raised eyebrows.

If the Maoist Centre withdraws its support, Oli will be reduced to a minority government. In that case, he either has to take a vote of confidence or will face a no-confidence motion.

“Oli will seek a vote of confidence once he slips into the minority,” a senior Nepali Congress leader said on condition of anonymity. “If he doesn’t get it, he can execute his plan to dissolve the House and declare an early election. Therefore, before that we have to get together and ensure a majority vote so that we can register a no-confidence motion against Oli.”

Once he fails to get a vote of confidence, the President could call Oli to form the government as he leads the largest party in the House.

“If he is given another chance to form the government as the leader of the largest party in the House, his move would again be to dissolve Parliament,” the Congress leader said.

In fact, according to Nepali Congress leaders, Oli has already sent feelers to their party President Sher Bahadur Deuba about holding the elections in June-July.

In the Congress too there is a view that the party should go for early polls.

During the Central Working Committee of Nepali Congress on Friday, some leaders including Ramesh Lekhak said the party should prepare for next elections rather than taking a lead to form the next government.

A top Congress leader told the Post that in his conversation with Deuba, the party president said elections are possible in June-July since the Election Commission has already done enough preparations to hold the parliamentary polls in April-May as they were scheduled earlier.

A leader of the CPN-UML corroborated this view.

“Oli is confident that sooner or later, the Maoist Centre will withdraw its support and it will be difficult to form another government replacing him,” a UML Standing Committee member told the Post. “Therefore, there is no alternative to early elections.”

The Standing Committee of the Maoist Centre is meeting on Sunday to discuss the scenario after the Congress decision to unseat Oli and take the lead in forming a government.

“In order to discuss the country’s latest political situation including whether the party should withdraw its support, we have called a meeting of the party Standing Committee on Sunday,” said Pampha Bhusal, a Standing Committee member. “Something will be decided in the meeting.”

Party chair Dahal is upbeat about the latest developments saying that the politics has changed course from Friday.

“Probably there will be a new government soon and a new situation will emerge,” Dahal said at a party function in Kapilvastu on Saturday. “To form the new government, we will expedite the talks from today itself.”