Prachanda-Oli rift set to jolt Nepal again

Prachanda-Oli rift set to jolt Nepal again

Prachanda-Oli rift set to jolt Nepal again 


Never the best of allies, the growing rift between Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda and former Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is sending shockwaves in the ruling communist-led seven party alliance.

Kathmandu: Never the best of allies, the growing rift between Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda and former Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is sending shockwaves in the ruling communist-led seven party alliance.

The Prachanda government is also challenged by smaller aspirational parties including the youth-oriented Rastriya Swantantra Party (RSP) and Madhesi parties. Besides the Nepali Congress which has the highest number of the seats in parliament is making incremental gains, putting it in pole position to play the kingmaker role, exploiting the rift in Nepal's communist camp.

For instance, the Nepali Congress, the largest party in Nepal, has made a comeback to power in a key Sudurpaschim Province in the country's west along the India-Nepal border.

Kamal Bahadur shah, a leader of the Nepali Congress, largest party in parliament, has been appointed the chief minister of the Sudurpaschim Province replacing the ruling coalition's Rajendra Singh Rawal who is also the leader of the KP Oli-led Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist).

The change of guard in the provincial government took place as Chief Minister Rawal failed to secure a required majority in the provincial assembly.

Rawal's fall became apparent as Nagarik Unmukti Party (NUP), a key partner in the provincial government, decided not to extend support to him owing to its demands including the release of the party's founder Resham Chaudhary who is serving a jail term on the charge of murder.

NUP, an emerging party in Nepal won local, provincial and federal elections by cashing in on the sentiments of ethnic Tharu community which has a sizable population in the province. The disgruntled NUP is also a partner in the seven-party ruling alliance at the Center which voted Prachanda to become the prime minister in December last year. However, the party has refused to be part of the new government unless its demands are addressed. The NUP maintains three seats in the Federal Parliament while it is the fourth largest force with seven seats in the 53-member strong provincial assembly.

With NUP's decision not to back UML's Chief Minister Rawal during the vote of confidence in the provincial assembly, the ruling coalition government has collapsed barely a month after it came to power. After the exit of Rawal, the provincial governor on Thursday appointed the provincial assembly leader of the Nepali Congress Kamal Shah as the next chief minister.

UML-Maoist rift widens ahead of president elections

The change of guard in Sudurpaschim Province happens at a time when key partners in the ruling alliance in Kathmandu are also polarised over a number of issues including the forthcoming election for new President scheduled for March 9.

The Oli-led CPN-UML is eyeing the post of president while Prachanda's Maoist party is looking for nominating someone else. The issue of the presidential election has further widened the rift between the Maoist and the UML, the two partners in the government.

"If the Maoist refuses to lend support to the UML candidate, the ruling alliance will eventually collapse. It is up to Prachanda to save the alliance," a leader close to the UML Chairman Oli told India Narrative.

PM Prachanda has already held talks with Oli, who is also the chairman of the high-level committee formed to advice the government, over the issue of the president. However, the duo is yet to arrive at a consensus.

Meanwhile, a leader of the Maoist party says Congress party may support the Maoists if the UML withdraws support from the government over the issue of the president. "In that case, the old Maoist-Congress democratic alliance could be revived and Prachanda could continue as the prime minister with the support of the Congress, Madhav Kumar Nepal-led Unified Socialist and Madhesi parties," the leader told India Narrative on Friday.

The ruling alliance is embroiled with growing mistrust among the partners in the government. The RSP, a key ally of PM Prachanda, recently quit the government over party chairman Ravi Lamichhane's dual citizenship issue. The party may withdraw its support to the government anytime soon.

Madhesi parties are unhappy with Oli and Prachanda. Two Madhesi parties Janamat Party and Janata Samajbadi Party, who are also the partners in the seven-member ruling alliance, are also disappointed with Oli and Prachanda over the issue of power-sharing. According to multiple sources, they are also staking claim for the post of president and vice president.

CK Raut's Janamat Party joined the government with its reservations while Janata Samajbadi Party led by Upendra Yadav is yet to join the government despite being partner of the ruling coalition. The Nagarik Unmukti Party, which also extended support to Prachanda, is further annoyed with the Prime Minister after the recent arrest of its lawmaker.

If the ruling alliance fails to pick its common candidate for the post of country's president, the alliance may see its downfall, resulting in yet another bout of political instability in Nepal.

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