Congress, Maoist Centre and Janata Samajbadi pursue deal to remove OliBut they are aware that the whole political scenario could change if Oli offers premiership to Samajbadi Party which, with 32 votes in Parliament, has turned kingmaker.
The Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) and Janata Samajbadi Party are inching closer to removing Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli following talks on Saturday, but there are still roadblocks before reaching a concrete agreement on filing a no-confidence motion against Oli.
Besides the demands of the Janata Samajbadi Party for withdrawing cases against their leaders and cadres from the 2015-16 Madhes uprising, releasing of their jailed lawmaker Resham Chaudhary and amendments to the constitution, the scenario could completely change if Oli offers the premiership to the Samajbadi Party in a bid to stop any coalition against him, according to leaders of the three parties privy to the ongoing talks.
Janata Samajbadi Party chairman Upendra Yadav, however, said he is not aware of any proposal to make a leader from his party the prime minister.
“I have not heard about any such proposal coming from Oli, and even if Oli comes up with an offer, it is not going to materialise,” Yadav told the Post. “We will sit once more with the Nepali Congress and make a final deal.”
With 34 lawmakers (two suspended) in the House of Representatives, the Samajbadi has become the kingmaker in the changed political context.
Leaders of the three parties are, however, confident that the next government will be their coalition.
“It is the fight of ideology so in terms of agenda, we are closer with the Nepali Congress and the Maoist Centre. Our broader agreement is to remove Oli who tried to impose totalitarianism in the country,” said Yadav. “There is no chance of supporting Oli this time.”
Janata Samajbadi leaders met with Maoist Centre leaders on Saturday, a day after their meeting with Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba.
The meeting between Maoist Centre and Janata Samajbadi leaders decided to sit together with the Nepali Congress before hammering out a power sharing deal and registering a no-confidence motion in Parliament to oust Oli, according to leaders of the two parties.
The three parties have tentatively agreed on Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba as the next prime minister.
“We will withdraw our support to the Oli government and register a no-confidence motion,” a Standing Committee member of the Maoist Centre told the Post on condition of anonymity.
On Saturday, the Maoist Centre recalled its five ministers from the Oli government.
But they have no strategy in place in case Oli offers the premiership to Samajbadi Party. As his CPN-UML has 120 seats at the moment in the lower house, he will need just 16 more lawmakers to prove his majority.
Of the 275 lawmakers, two from Nepali Congress and as many from the Samajbadi Party remain suspended while one UML lawmaker has died.
Speculations are rife that the Samajbadi Party, which was formed in April last year after a merger between the Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum Nepal and Rastriya Janata Party Nepal, could split. Both the constituents had 17 seats each in the House of Representatives. Both had supported the Oli government. Yadav, as the leader of the Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum Nepal, was even deputy prime minister in the Oli Cabinet until December 2019. Janata Party Nepal withdrew its support to Oli in March 2019 after Chaudhary was convicted.
“We will remain united and extend our support in government formation as a unified party,” said Yadav.
Besides, Oli has his own problems and as his opponents like Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal have decided to invoke parallel structures inside the UML.
Therefore, the support of Samajbadi Party will not be instrumental in saving Oli, according to two leaders of the Samajbadi Party.
“Our talks with the government side are to release Chaudhary, not to support Oli,” said Yadav.
The task forces formed by UML and Janata Samajbadi parties have been meeting on a regular basis to discuss the withdrawal of cases against hundreds of Madhesi leaders and cadres held during the 2015-16 uprising, releasing Chaudhary, who is serving a life sentence at Dillibazar Prison in connection with the 2015 Tikapur incident in which nine people were killed in violent clashes, and amendment to the constitution that the party has been demanding ever since its promulgation in 2015.
According to a UML leader, the joint task force is preparing the list of leaders and cadres who are facing different kinds of cases in several districts and the UML, including Prime Minister Oli, are positive about releasing Chaudhary.
The release of Chaudhary and constitutional amendment also featured in talks between Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Janata Samajbadi Party leaders.
Dahal asked the Samajbadi Party leaders about how Chaudhary can be released and also sought their suggestions on how the constitution amendment process can move forward, according to a Maoist Centre leader.
“We still have some differences with the JSP on addressing their demands so there is no concrete progress in talks with JSP leaders,” said Narayan Kaji Shrestha, the spokesperson for the Maoist Centre. “The ball is in JSP’s court. We are waiting for the outcome of their internal party meetings. They are also meeting with the Nepali Congress and holding consultations within the party.”
It is too soon to say what will happen, he added.
Meanwhile, Deuba is also not sure of leading the next government.
Speaking at a function in Kathmandu on Saturday, Deuba said that Nepali Congress is not keen to lead the next government at any cost as the political situation is still fluid and uncertain.
“Nepali Congress is not in a hurry to join or lead the government,” Deuba said. “If the situation permits us to lead or join the government, we will not run away from the responsibility but since people have mandated us to sit in the opposition, we are happy to fulfil that role too. Our main objective is to hold the party's general convention and figure out how to secure a majority in the next elections.”
Some Nepali Congress leaders like Ram Chandra Poudel have even suggested that the premiership should be offered to Samajbadi Party if that is the cost of removing Oli despite a meeting of former and present office bearers of the party deciding on Friday to back party president Deuba as the next prime minister.
“Pressure has mounted on all three political parties to come together to form the next government under the leadership of Deuba,” said Gagan Thapa, a Nepali Congress leader. “But there are some other factors hindering this entire strategy. JSP leaders like Mahantha Thakur are wondering why the JSP should not lead the next government. In that context, if Oli offers the premiership to any Samajbadi leader, then we have to chart out another strategy.”
The Nepali Congress, however, is ready to address the demands of the Janata Samajbadi Party as much as Oli has expressed his commitment to do so, Thapa said.
Samajbadi Party leaders have said that they will soon hold talks with Nepali Congress and reach a conclusion before the House meets on Tuesday.
That there will be a speedy conclusion to the ongoing talks between the three parties was also the view of Barsha Man Pun, a Standing Committee member of the Maoist Centre.
“I cannot reveal more but there will be some positive outcome within two days,” Pun told the Post.
“We are heading to form a coalition between the NC, Maoist Centre and the JSP. We have already started discussion to file a no-confidence motion against the Oli government which will be finalised within a day or two,” he said. “Now no one can stop the Congress, Maoist Centre and JSP from forming a new coalition government.”