Maoists keep their options open on new governmentDecision perceived as a pressure tactic to compel Congress to make Dahal PM.
In a meeting of its office bearers on Saturday, the first since November 20 polls, the CPN (Maoist Centre) decided to keep its options on government formation open.
This decision of the third-largest party in the incoming House of Representatives indicates it is exploring chances of government formation independent of the existing coalition led by the Nepali Congress of which the Maoist Centre is a party.
Though Maoist chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal has been holding regular talks with Congress President and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on a new government, his party’s decision to keep the door open for negotiations with the CPN-UML, which is set to be the second largest parliamentary party, could be a pressure tactic. The goal is apparently to keep the Congress, the largest party, under pressure to let Dahal lead the Cabinet in the first half of the House’s five-year term.
While forging an electoral alliance, Deuba and Dahal had reportedly reached a gentlemen's agreement to head the government by turns. Now Dahal, who has also been approached by the UML to form a coalition, is demanding the government’s leadership.
“We can discuss government formation with the UML as well, but we will hold decisive talks only after our party evaluates its electoral outcome,” said Krishna Bahadur Mahara, spokesperson for the Maoist Centre, shortly after the meeting at the party headquarters Peris Danda.
Mahara said that the party, however, has not decided to abandon the existing Congress-led coalition.
According to leaders, the parties in the ruling coalition are preparing to issue a statement expressing their commitment to continuing their partnership. The Deuba-led coalition partners have already met once.
Maoist chair Dahal has been eyeing government leadership right away, ongoing discussions in the Nepali Congress on government leadership suggest he may not get his wish. Currently, there are many contenders for the prime minister post in the Congress party that managed to garner almost 90 seats in the House of Representatives with the help of its alliance partners. In the 275-member House of Representatives, a lawmaker needs the support of 138 members to get elected as the prime minister.
Most leaders of the Maoist Centre, a key constituent of the ruling coalition, are unhappy with the results of the November 20 federal polls.
The party’s top four leaders, speaking at Saturday’s meeting, expressed their dissatisfaction over the lack of vote transfer from Congress supporters even as the five parties forged an electoral alliance and didn’t field candidates against each other. The leaders have asked the party leadership for detailed evaluation of poll results.
“Though the results of the provincial polls were somewhat better, we are disappointed by the results of the federal polls,” Mahara told the Post.
Senior vice-chair Narayan Kaji Shrestha, vice chair Mahara, general secretary Dev Prasad Gurung and deputy general secretary Pampha Bhusal aired their views at the meeting over the ‘unexpected’ poll outcome.
During the meeting, according to the leaders present, deputy general secretary Bhusal, who lost to Rastriya Swatantra Party’s Toshima Karki and UML’s Amrit Khadka, has demanded an investigation into how the Rastriya Swatantra Party came out of nowhere to win.
The Maoist Centre is emerging as the third-largest party from the November polls as well, but the 53-member party in 2017 has now been reduced to around 31 seats, which party leaders say owes largely to Congress voters refusing to vote for Maoist candidates. Among the 46 candidates of the party, only 17 won while one is leading in Dolakha.
According to party secretary Ganesh Sah, leaders like Narayan Kaji Shrestha had stressed changing the party’s working style so that it would be able to do better in the next polls. “The leaders in today’s meeting basically pointed out two major reasons behind the party’s loss—lack of vote transfer from the alliance partners and the emergence of new parties in urban areas,” Sah told the Post.
The party won 53 seats in the seven provinces in the first-past-the-post election.
Only 10 of the 21 office bearers of the party were in the fray and only five made it to Parliament.
Dahal won from Gorkha-2, deputy general secretaries Barshaman Pun, Janardan Sharma and Shakti Basnet won from Rolpa, Rukum West and Jajarkot, respectively, while secretary Devendra Poudel won the Baglung-1 seat.
General Secretary Dev Gurung lost to UML’s Prithvi Subba Gurung in Lamjung, while deputy general secretary Girirajmani Pokhrel lost to UML’s Laxmi Mahato Koiri in Mahottari-1. Deputy General Secretary Matrika Yadav lost to Janata Samajbadi Party’s Dipak Karki in Dhanusha-1, while Secretary Chakrapani Khanal lost to UML’s Balaram Adhikari in Kapilvastu-1.
The leaders who lost this time were victorious during the 2017 polls when the party had forged an alliance with the UML.