Another setback for Oli as Pokhrel resigns as chief minister of Lumbini ProvinceMaoists' Kul Prasad KC proposed as new chief minister.
The resignation on Wednesday by Shankar Pokhrel as the chief minister of Lumbini Province comes as another setback for CPN-UML Chairman and former prime minister KP Sharma Oli.
There was a time when Oli led a government with close to a two-thirds majority and his party, Nepal Communist Party (NCP), led six out of seven provincial governments—barring Province 2.
Oli’s downfall began after he dissolved the House of Representatives on December 20, 2020 for the first time. The Supreme Court reinstated the House in February.
But Oli did not relent in his way of leading the government and his party arbitrarily and he once again dissolved the lower house on May 21. The House dissolution move by Oli—for the second time in six months—was again challenged in the Supreme Court.
Again, the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court on July 12 ruled against Oli’s move and even ordered the appointment of Sher Bahadur Deuba of Nepali Congress as prime minister, as demanded by the petitioners which included lawmakers from the Madhav Nepal faction of Oli’s party.
A few days after reinstating the House, the Supreme Court in early March invalidated the three-year-long unity between Oli’s CPN-UML and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), which formed the Nepal Communist Party (NCP).
The split in the party seemed inevitable long before the court’s ruling, with Oli and the other chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, now of the Maoist Centre, not seeing eye to eye for most part of the period they remained under the same party.
Pokhrel’s resignation is another setback for Oli, analysts and political observers say.
“Pokhrel had no option left than to put in his papers as the opposition alliance had already secured a majority,” said Krishna Pokhrel, a professor.
After falling into the minority, Pokhrel resigned as the chief minister of Lumbini Province. His resignation was immediately approved by the province’s chief Amik Sherchan.
The opposition alliance has secured a majority in the provincial parliament against Pokhrel. The 87-member Lumbini provincial assembly has now 80 members with the opposition controlling 42 seats and the UML 38.
Ahead of the provincial session where opposition parties were all set to discuss a vote of confidence against him, Pokhrel on Wednesday met with provincial chief Serchan and put in his papers.
Sherchan has given until Thursday 3:00pm to form the new government.
With the new political development, the opposition parties have geared up for the formation of the new government. The opposition alliance of Nepali Congress, Maoist Centre and Janata Samajbadi Party has already proposed Kul Prasad KC for the next chief minister. Also it has been learnt that the Maoist Centre and the Nepali Congress have reached a gentleman’s agreement to lead the provincial government in rotation of eight months each.
“We have reached an agreement in principle to lead the government on a rotational basis. We haven’t signed a formal written agreement yet,” said Birendra Prasad Kanodia, the parliamentary party leader of Nepali Congress in the provincial assembly.
The new developments, however, do not surprise some UML leaders.
Pokhrel’s resignation is not a new issue, said Chhabilal Bishwakarma, a UML Standing Committee member and member of Parliament from Rupandehi.
“What has happened in Butwal today is a reflection of the politics in Kathmandu. The political alliance that was formed and created at the centre has unseated Pokhrel. But this is not a result of the ongoing power tussle in our party. Our party organisation and parliamentary party are very much united and intact in Lumbini Province. Pokhrel’s resignation will not make a difference in the party,” said Bishwakarma.
Earlier too, Pokhrel had faced a similar political crisis but was later re-elected as chief minister on May 2.
After Pokhrel’s resignation, the UML is leading governments in Province 1 and Bagmati Province.
With KC all set to become the chief minister of Lumbini, the Maoist Centre will lead the government in three provinces. It already rules Karnali and Sudurpaschim provinces.
“What has happened in Lumbini is likely to spread to Province 1 and Bagmati too,” political analyst Shreekrishna Aniruddh Gautam said. “Oli’s ouster itself was a serious blow to Pokharel’s political career and Wednesday’s resignation has sealed his fate and further weakened Oli.”
Together with Oli, his close confidantes are bearing the brunt too, analysts say.
Earlier on May 9, Oli's trusted lieutenant, Prithvi Subba Gurung had resigned as chief minister of Gandaki Province after a vote of no-confidence was tabled against him by Nepali Congress, Janata Samajbadi Party and CPN (Maoist Centre).
“After Ganadki, UML lost another province. Though Gurung resigned without any controversy, Pokhrel is known for introducing malpractice and misconduct in provincial politics,” said Pokhrel, the political analyst.
(Ghanashyam Gautam and Amrita Anmol contributed reporting).