In a volte-face, Maoists renew vow to continue with Congress allianceWith UML tipped to back a Congress government without being part of it, Maoist Centre leaders fear being kept out.
Barely 24 hours after announcing that it was open to partnering with any political party on a new government, ruling coalition member CPN (Maoist Centre) on Sunday made a U-turn and pledged its full support to the Nepali Congress-led alliance.
On Saturday, Maoist Centre spokesman Krishna Bahadur Mahara had told reporters that his party could join hands even with parties outside the ruling alliance. Observers interpreted the announcement as Maoist readiness to cut ties with the Congress and join the CPN-UML camp to form a new government.
But on Sunday, Maoist leaders backtracked and reaffirmed their allegiance to the Congress, apparently in the fear that the Congress, the largest party, could opt for a government without the Maoist Centre, the third largest.
According to Maoist Centre insiders, Saturday’s utterance was aimed at building pressure on the Congress to allow Maoist chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal to head the government in the first half of the five-year term, but the leaders backtracked on Sunday after sensing that such a tactic could backfire.
“The Nepali Congress is trying to form a government without the Maoist Centre, and that is possible too,” said one of the deputy general secretaries of the Maoist Centre. “Even the UML has already told Congress leaders to form a government single-handedly and that the second largest party would support the Congress from outside.”
As the UML has been trying to break the current coalition and the Congress has been mulling options to form a new government under its own leadership, even without the Maoist Centre, Maoist leaders feared that their decision could backfire instead of building pressure on Congress.
An informal meeting of the Maoist Centre’s office bearers on Sunday reportedly decided to give continuity to its partnership with the Congress. Party general secretary Dev Gurung said his party has not discussed joining the UML camp.
“We will evaluate the polls in the coalition’s meeting on Monday,” Gurung told reporters after his party’s meeting on Sunday. “We have not discussed the coalition’s alternatives.”
He also said the Maoist partnership with the Congress is solid and the ruling coalition has yet to discuss a new government.
“As the leader of the country’s political change, it’s obvious for the Maoist Centre to claim government leadership,” he explained.
During the office bearers’ meeting on Sunday, the Maoist leaders were divided on the idea of joining a new government. Most leaders speaking at the meeting were in favour of joining the government while some like deputy general secretary Haribol Gajurel said the party must have clarity on ideological issues while choosing a coalition partner, according to leaders at the meeting.
“Chairman Dahal has said he would come up with a political document in the soon-to-be-held next meeting of the party,” said Girirajmani Pokhrel, deputy general secretary of the party.
He said that Dahal, speaking at the meeting, committed to sticking to the existing coalition. During the party’s upcoming office bearers meeting, Dahal and Gajurel will present papers on the party’s way forward.
Gajurel reportedly accused party leaders of focusing on power plays instead of working to bring social change during the party’s recent government stints. “Newer parties have emerged and taken our place after we failed to deliver,” a leader quoted Gajurel as saying in the meeting.