Nepali Congress to wait and watch developments in the Nepal Communist Party unfoldFollowing the two warring factions’ approach to help it form the next government, a meeting of the Nepali Congress top leaders decides not to take sides for the moment.
With the reinstatement of the House of Representatives, the ruling Nepal Communist Party irreconcilably divided and the formation of a new government the most likely scenario, all eyes are on the Nepali Congress with its 63 seats in the 275-member House.
Both warring factions of the Nepal Communist Party have reached out to the second largest party in Parliament for its support to forming a new government.
But the grand old party, following a meeting of its office-bearers on Thursday, is in no hurry to take a side.
“Both the proposals are zero for us,” senior Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel told the Post after the meeting. “First, the formation of the new government should come into the parliamentary process.”
According to Congress leaders, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli called their party President Sher Bahadur Deuba on Tuesday evening, hours after the Supreme Court decision to reinstate the House of Representatives, seeking the party’s support.
Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal on Wednesday paid Deuba a visit at his Budhanilkantha residence also with a proposal to form a coalition government with their faction of the divided party and the Nepali Congress.
Of the 173 members in the lower house that belong to the Nepal Communist Party, the Dahal-Nepal faction has the support of 88 to 90 parliamentarians while 82 to 84 are with the Oli faction.
In its decision on Tuesday, the Supreme Court has ordered that the House be convened within 13 days—by March 8.
The first order of business of the reinstated House is widely expected to be the filing of a n0-confidence motion against Oli.
Deuba told his suitors that he would discuss their proposals within his party to decide on the Nepali Congress position. On Thursday, Deuba held meetings with his party colleagues.
Deuba first consulted with leaders close to him and later summoned a meeting of party’s senior leaders including present and former office bearers.
“Briefing them at the meeting, Deuba said that he told both sides that he would first consult within the party whom to support or not to support,” said a party source on condition of anonymity. “He said that as long as the Nepal Communist Party remains united, the Nepali Congress will not take any view on the matter.”
According to Nepali Congress leaders present at the meetings, the party has decided to closely follow the Nepal Communist Party’s move.
“We want to be clear about the position of the Nepal Communist Party in Parliament. Are they divided or they are still united? When issues like NCP’s split or unification will be ascertained, then the Nepali Congress will clear its position,” said Poudel.
Although the Nepal Communist Party is split for all practical purposes, legally it is still one party.
The Election Commission, the constitutional body that gives recognition to political parties, is still dithering when it comes to responding to the Dahal-Nepal faction of the party to give it legitimacy and accept its decisions including the suspension of Oli as a party member.
In its January 24 decision, the commission refused to give either side legitimacy citing a technical issue.
The Nepali Congress is, leaders say, therefore keeping a watch on the developments in the party fractured into two since Oli decided to dissolve the House on December 20, a move the Supreme Court termed unconstitutional.
“First we want to know what is the position of the NCP,” said Poudel.
He was of the view that the prime minister should resign.
“On what moral grounds can the prime minister step into the House that he had dissolved?” said Poudel.
As of now Oli is the sitting prime minister, hence the top leadership is more concerned about his next steps rather than those of Dahal and Nepal, according to sources in the Congress party.
“What Oli will do if a no-confidence motion is registered against him?” a Nepali Congress leader asked. “Will he resign as prime minister or will again join hands with Dahal and Nepal? And what will then be the future strategy of the Dahal-Nepal faction?”
The Nepali Congress is concerned that it will have nowhere to go if the two factions decide to join hands although the Dahal-Nepal faction has said joining hands with Oli is out of the question for the moment.
“Some NCP leaders hinted at party unity,” the NC leader said. “We are closely looking at how the NCP dispute moves ahead and what course it will take. We are waiting to see if Oli will split the party. But now that he has been saying he will face Parliament, we face a bigger dilemma.”
The Dahal-Nepal faction had registered a no-confidence motion in Parliament against the government on the same day it was dissolved on January 20, and in that Dahal had been presented as the alternative prime ministerial candidate.
It is unclear whether Nepali Congress is likely to join a government led by Dahal but if the Dahal-Nepal faction is ready to offer the Nepali Congress the government’s leadership, a different no-confidence motion will have to be registered.
“We do not know whether the prime minister will resign or not,” senior Nepali Congress leader Ram Sharan Mahat said. “We do not know what the NCP will do—whether it will register a no-confidence motion or it will just change the parliamentary party leader.”
If it changes the parliamentary party leader then the new leader would be the prime minister with the 173-member Nepal Communist Party forming the government.
“The ball is in NCP’s court. We will assess the situation and move ahead. We have not decided whom to support,” said Mahat. “As of now, Oli is the prime minister. He is leading the government. Until the situation of the NCP clears, we do not have any decision to make because we have no role in government formation.”
But when and if it becomes clear that neither faction of the Nepal Communist Party can form a government on its own, the Nepali Congress will step in to resolve the deadlock.
“Nepali Congress is ready to sit in the opposition but in case a new government cannot be formed due to the dispute between the two NCP factions, our party will remove the deadlock,” said a party leader who participated in both Thursday meetings of the Nepali Congress.