Political developments of the last few days have reverberated across provincial governmentsChief ministers of some provinces set to lose majority in the provincial assembly, destabilising their governments.
The political developments unfolding in the centre have already started having repercussions in the governments of the six of the seven provinces that are ruled by the Nepal Communist Party.
The division of the party between the factions led by chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal on the one hand and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on the other has led to a vertical division among the party rank and file.
At present, while Province 1, Bagmati, Gandaki and Lumbini are led by chief ministers close to Oli from the erstwhile CPN-UML, Karnali and Sudurpaschim are led by chief ministers close to Dahal from the erstwhile Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre).
In Province 1, with the impending split of the ruling Nepal Communist Party, the provincial government, led by Sherdhan Rai with a two-thirds majority in the provincial assembly, may end up in minority.
As per the constitutional provision, the Chief Minister should garner votes of confidence in case the party he/she represents splits. The CM will be relieved from his/her post if he/she fails to get a vote of confidence from majority members of the provincial assembly. And a no-confidence motion can also be tabled in the assembly, forcing the CM to show support of majority members of the provincial assembly.
Of the total 93 members in Province 1 assembly, the ruling NCP has 67 members, Nepali Congress has 21 members and Janata Samajwadi Party has three members. Similarly, Rastriya Prajatantra Party and Sanghiya Loktantrik Rastriya Manch have one member each.
Fifty-one among the 67 NCP members were elected from then CPN-UML and the other 16 were from Maoist (Centre). Twenty NCP members are considered to be close with the Oli group, 28 are with the Dahal-Nepal group while three members seem neutral.
“Discussions are on regarding the formation of a new government in the changed political situation with the support of Nepali Congress and Janata Samajwadi Party,” said Kul Prasad Sambo, a member of the Provincial assembly close to the Dahal-Nepal faction.
With the possible threat to his government, Rai is said to have been striving to lure some members from the rival faction. Rai said the Province 1 government is no exception to the political turmoil the country is facing. “One should be ready for the consequences if they trigger political instability by toppling the provincial government,” he said.
In Bagmati Province, Chief Minister Dormani Paudel’s government has also lost his majority due to the split in party members. Out of 110 assembly members in the province, 80 lawmakers are from NCP.
Thirty-four of the 80 assembly members are supporters of Oli. The Dahal-Nepal faction has 22 and 24 assembly members respectively in their corners. According to Shalikram Jamkatel, minister of Internal Affairs and Planning of NCP, the CM’s government could face impeachment since he no longer enjoys a majority. “The CM should resign and open doors for others,” he said. “But the CM may dissolve the provincial assembly.”
“The CM has already lost the majority now. The next few days will reveal the fate of this government,” said Deepak Niraula, an assembly member known to be close to the CM.
In Gandaki province, Prithvi Subba Gurung, the provincial in charge and a standing committee member of Nepal Communist Party, is the Chief Minister. But with NCP split more or less inevitable, Gurung’s government is also on the verge of losing his two-thirds majority in the provincial assembly.
In the 60-member provincial assembly, 28 are from the then CPN UML, 15 represent Nepali Congress, 12 from the then Maoist, three from Rastriya Janamorcha and two from Janata Samajwadi Party. The Chief Minister of the province was selected from the then UML whereas the House Speaker was selected from the then Maoist.
Gurung has support from 43 assembly members, 40 from NCP and three from Rastriya Janamorcha, but according to NCP provincial leaders, that equation could change because of polarisation within the NCP.
According to Ramji Baral, who won election from the then Maoist, there is a possibility of an impeachment motion against Gurung if he lends his support to Oli. “The assembly members appointed from the then Maoist are unified. If the Chief Minister supports the PM, there will be a two-thirds majority against his government.”
In Lumbini Province, until Tuesday, leaders of NCP were still undecided on which faction to choose. Out of 87 assembly members, 61 are from NCP in the province. Among the 61, 41 are from the then UML and 20 are from the then Maoist. Thirty six out of the 41 from the then UML are in favour of Oli. There are 19 assembly members from Nepali Congress, six from Janata Samajwadi and one from Janamorcha.
Bhumishwor Dhakal, chief whip of the NCP, said, “It is highly unlikely much will change in the political scene here in Lumbini. Provincial ministers and other assembly members are supporting the CM.”
Chief Minister Shankar Pokharel has started discussions with Nepali Congress for collaboration in case of a threat to his government, said Fakhruddin Khan, chief whip of Nepali Congress. “We have advised the CM not to dissolve the provincial assembly fearing a crisis. There have been rumours that’s what he plans to do.”
In Karnali Province, the changed political scenario will have a minimal impact on the present government led by Mahendra Bahadur Shahi, who was elected from then Maoist (Centre), provided the existing factions remain intact. However, there are speculations and rumours that some provincial assembly members could possibly switch camps.
There are 20 members of the then CPN-UML, 13 of the Maoist (Centre), six of Nepali Congress and one of Rastriya Prajatantra Party in the 40-seat Provincial Assembly. And among the 20 members from the former UML, 12 are close to Oli while eight are with Nepal. On the basis of this numerical, the Dahal-Nepal group has 21 members, which is enough to form a government.
However, the Shahi government is worried, as Oli has included Dharmaraj Regmi, who was elected from Dailekh as the Maoist (Centre) candidate then, in the organising committee of the upcoming party convention of the Oli group.
Sita Nepali, chief whip of the NCP parliamentary committee who is close with the Dahal-Nepal faction, said she heard about Regmi’s inclusion in the committee through social media.
“He (Regmi) has been very positive with the government in recent times. He is committed to our group. I don’t think that he will defect to another group,” she said. Regmi had signed the no-confidence motion filed earlier against Chief Minister Shahi.
The Sudurpaschim government also finds itself in a political turmoil in light of the recent developments. Of the 53 assembly members, 39 are from NCP. Only six of the 39 from the NCP are in favour of Oli. Chief Minister Trilochan Bhatta from NCP has also lost his majority in the provincial assembly.
“The Dahal-Nepal faction has the majority’s support,” said Rana Bahadur Rawal, parliamentary party leader of Nepali Congress in the provincial assembly. “Which of the two factions comes out stronger at the centre will surely affect the outcome here. It remains to be seen what will happen in the coming days.”
(Deo Narayan Sah in Morang, Subash Bidari in Makwanpur, Lal Prasad Sharma in Pokhara, Ghanashyam Gautam in Rupandehi, Kalendra Sejuwal in Surkhet and Chitranga Thapa in Dhangadhi.)