Coalition members seek to fortify alliance plan for local electionsThere’s, however, many a slip twixt cup and lip, with Madhes-based parties involved.
A meeting of the ruling coalition on Thursday decided to forge an electoral alliance only among the coalition partners, in what is seen as a bid to diminish the main opposition CPN-UML’s poll prospects.
At a time when some observers are saying an electoral alliance is easier said than done, such a decision could fuel more confusion, as the Janata Samajbadi Party, a coalition partner, has kept its options open for a poll alliance—including with the main opposition CPN-UML.
The decision to forge an alliance only among coalition partners comes amid Nepali Congress President and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s bid to cultivate the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party, which was formed after a split in the Janata Samajbadi Party.
Only on Wednesday, Deuba met with Loktantrik Samajbadi Party leaders to explore the possibility of inducting the party into the government.
Currently the ruling coalition has the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), the CPN (Unified Socialist) and the Janata Samajbadi Party, besides the Nepali Congress.
“We are ready to join the government if the ruling coalition expresses commitment to addressing our demands and ensures an electoral alliance,” said Keshav Jha, a member of the Central Executive Committee of the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party. “The prime minister has been insisting that we join the government.”
According to Jha, during their meeting on Wednesday, the prime minister told the leaders that he will hold discussions with the coalition partners to induct the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party to the government and electoral alliance.
Party chair Mahantha Thakur has been expressing willingness to join the Deuba-led government if the prime minister expresses commitment to fulfilling their demands, especially ensuring a law related to citizenship and withdrawing the remaining court cases against its party leaders and cadres.
An official at the prime minister’s secretariat claimed that there is no reason for the prime minister not to bring the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party that supported the government and even supported the MCC compact, in the government.
“I think they could join the government after the prime minister returns from India if everything turns positive by then,” said the official. “If they join the government, the existing five-party electoral alliance will have six members.”
The Rastriya Janamorcha had distanced itself from the then five-party ruling coalition protesting against the passage of the Millennium Challenge Corporation compact, but has joined the electoral alliance from Thursday.
“We quit the ruling coalition after its decision to ratify the MCC compact but we have not withdrawn our support to the government yet,” said the party’s only lawmaker Durga Poudel, who was present in Thursday’s Baluwatar meeting that took a formal decision to forge an electoral alliance among the five parties.
The five-party grouping’s decision to restrict members from forging electoral alliance with others sharply contradicts the prime minister’s commitment on Wednesday to bring the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party to the government. Now it’s up to the coalition partners to decide.
But leaders of the Janata Samajbadi Party don’t seem to be happy with Deuba’s bid to rope in the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party.
“We are ready to welcome them into our party, why only to the ruling coalition,” retorted Upendra Yadav talking to the Post.
The Thakur-led party was formed after a split in the Janata Samajbadi Party in August last year, the same time as the Madhav Nepal-led CPN (Unified Socialist), a splinter of the UML.
Deuba has reportedly offered the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, which are currently headed by Deuba, according to leaders.
However, some Congress leaders claimed that the prime minister is in no mood to bring Thakur’s party on board at least before the local polls as the elections are fast approaching and he does not want to let go of the Defence Ministry, which is considered crucial.
But some other leaders claimed that Deuba wanted to induct Thakur’s party to further isolate the main opposition CPN-UML, the biggest threat to the coalition’s electoral prospects.
Earlier, tired of waiting for a formal decision from the Nepali Congress on electoral alliance, ruling coalition members including the Janata Samajbadi Party and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) had announced that they were open to electoral alliances with any parties including the CPN-UML.
But with Thursday’s decision by the five parties—four in the ruling coalition and the Rastriya Janamorcha—the Maoist Centre and the Janata Samajbadi cannot partner with the UML in the local elections.
The ruling coalition has taken a formal decision on an electoral alliance after the Nepali Congress top meeting on Tuesday decided to partner with parties in the elections on a ‘needs basis’.
The meeting of the five parties—Nepali Congress, the Maoist Centre, CPN (Unified Socialist), Janata Samajbadi Party and Rastriya Janamorcha—held at Baluwatar has decided to form mechanisms at provincial, districts and local levels to study the existing situation of the parties and send a report to the centre by April 5.
“We have decided to fight the upcoming local level polls in a unified manner,” said Gyanendra Bahadur Karki, Congress leader and government’s spokesperson after Thursday’s meeting. “The mechanisms consisting of all five parties will be formed in provinces, districts and the local units to study the situation of the parties.”
Karki said the centre will further discuss the modality of the alliance after receiving reports from the mechanisms.
According to Ashok Rai, who was present at the five-party meeting on Thursday, said they didn’t discuss inducting the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party to the alliance.
“Earlier we had kept the door open also for other parties to join the electoral alliance. But with today’s decision, that door is closed now. The five parties will jointly contest the local elections from the ward to the metropolis level,” Rai told the Post.
Though Yadav seemed unhappy with Deuba’s attempt to bring his rival party to the government, other leaders of the Janata Samajbadi Party said they would not object if the party joined the government.
“We will be happy to make our coalition stronger by inducting the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party,” said Baburam Bhattarai, federal council chairman of the Janata Samajbadi Party. “But the issue did not figure during today’s meeting.”