Alliance seat-sharing gets knottier as Maoist Centre has Bhattarai, Gautam into its foldRuling coalition wants Dahal to accommodate the new entrants in his party’s own share, instead of asking to adjust them as well.
The CPN (Maoist Centre) announced on Tuesday that Baburam Bhattarai’s and Bamdev Gautam’s parties will be contesting the upcoming polls under its election symbol—hammer and sickle within a circle.
As the Maoist Centre, which is a key constituent of the ruling coalition, itself is bargaining for more seats, it remains a question how it will adjust the two more parties under its election symbol.
On Tuesday, a Standing Committee meeting of the Maoist Centre decided to allow the Bhattarai-led Nepal Samajbadi Party and the Gautam-led Nepal Communist Party Unity National Campaign to go to the polls under its election symbol.
There are two lawmakers from the Nepal Samajbadi in the current Parliament—Bhattarai himself from Gorkha-2 and Mahendra Rai Yadav from Sarlahi-2. Gautam had lost the 2017 elections from Bardiya-1.
In the five-party ruling coalition, the Maoist Centre is eying at least 50 seats under direct election for the House of Representatives—already too high a number as per the leaders of the Nepali Congress, which leads the coalition.
The Congress wants to contest in 99 out of 165 seats under the direct election system, leaving the remaining 66 for others, but coalition partners do not agree. The task force formed by the coalition partners is struggling to finalise the modality of seat-sharing arrangements.
Of the 275 seats for the House of Representatives, 110 seats will be elected through the Proportional Representation system. In seven provincial assemblies, 330 seats are up for grabs under the FPTP while 220 will be elected through the Proportional Representation system.
“It’s obvious that we will demand around 6-7 seats in the House of Representatives and 8-10 seats in the provincial assemblies though we have not discussed it yet,” said a leader close to Bhattarai asking not to be named. “Since we are also with the coalition, we expect that the leaders would manage seats for us.”
The Maoist Centre wants at least four leaders—Bhattarai, Mahindra Rai Yadav, Rajkishor Yadav and Bamdev Gautam—to be allocated seats from the coalition.
“Since Bhattarai, Yadav and Gautam are top leaders, the coalition must manage seats for them,” said Matrika Yadav, a standing committee member of the Maoist Centre. “Dahal will lobby in the coalition to secure seats for them.”
According to Maoist Centre leader Yadav, Gautam has asked the Maoist Centre chair to manage at least one seat for federal and two seats for provincial assemblies for Gautam’s party.
Gautam, according to Maoist Centre leaders, wants to contest from Pyuthan-1 replacing his National Assembly seat with Durga Poudel, a lawmaker of the Rastriya Janamorcha, a coalition partner.
But it’s easier said than done.
Dahal is planning to propose at the coalition meeting to manage seats for the leaders of the Nepal Samajbadi and those from Gautam’s party, but other members of the coalition like the Congress, Janata Samajbadi Party and Unified Socialist are of the view that Dahal should accommodate the leaders from the Maoist Centre’s own share.
“With the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party also wanting to join the coalition, the seat-sharing issue is getting more and more complicated,” said Gyanendra Bahadur Karki, government’s spokesperson and a member of the 11-member task from representing the Congress.
However, the coalition has yet to induct the Loktantrik Samajbadi into its fold.
Unified Socialist leaders also said the Maoist Centre should accommodate the leaders of other parties from its own share since the parties in the coalition themselves are struggling to manage seats for their leaders.
“There is no question of sharing coalition seats for parties using the Maoist Centre’s election symbol. The Maoist party should do so from its own share,” said Vijay Kumar Poudel, a deputy general secretary of Unified Socialist. “Otherwise, seat-sharing will become further complicated.”
However, the Maoist Centre’s spokesperson Krishna Bahadur Mahara said his party will discuss the issue with coalition leaders to accommodate Bhattarai, Gautam and their leaders.
“We have decided to accept the wish of Bhattarai and Gautam to contest the polls under our election symbol,” said Mahara, following the standing committee meeting of the party at Paris Danda on Tuesday morning.
Gautam, vice-chair of the then Nepal Communist Party, was nominated to the National Assembly by the party. After the Supreme Court in March 2021 invalidated the party, which was formed through a merger between the CPN-UML and the CPN (Maoist Centre), sending it to pre-merge status, Gautam refused to join any of the parties and launched his own NCP Unity National Campaign earlier this year.
On Tuesday, Gautam told reporters at the Election Commission that he feels it would be comfortable to contest the polls using the Maoist Centre’s symbol.
“I have asked Dahal to secure seats for my party either through the coalition or from his party’s share,” Gautam said.