Plot thickens as Nepali Congress gives Dahal vote of confidenceSpeculations rife of Deuba striking some kind of tacit agreement with prime minister.
Despite the opposition of both party general secretaries—Gagan Thapa and Bishwa Parkash Sharma—as well as leaders Pradip Paudel, Arjun Narsingh KC, Prakash Man Singh and Bal Bahadur KC, the Nepali Congress on Tuesday gave its vote of confidence to the government of CPN (Maoist Centre) chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal. With the support of the Congress as well as other parties, Dahal garnered 268 votes in the 275-member House.
Arjun Narsingh KC, who stood against the party’s decision to give the vote of confidence to Dahal, said the party had made a mistake.
“The party could have behaved like an active opposition,” KC told the Post. “When the parliamentary committee of the party was unable to decide on the matter, the establishment faction pushed through the decision in the work execution committee meeting.”
There is a constitutional provision whereby only a party leader who does not support the government can be the main opposition leader, said Congress leader Paudel who had also opposed the party’s central execution committee decision to support Prime Minister Dahal. “By endorsing a candidate for prime minister who has already formed a Cabinet with other opposition parties, we have created ethical, moral, and legal concerns,” Paudel told the Post.
Purna Bahadur Khadka, a Congress vice president, said the party decided to support Dahal as a special consideration.
“Congress gave Prime Minister Dahal a vote of confidence after assessing the country's situation,” Khadka told reporters on the Parliament premises after the trust vote.
The Congress had on Monday said the party would decide whether to support the Dahal-led government via its parliamentary committee meeting on Tuesday morning.
The party also issued a whip to its lawmakers to vote in favour of the confidence motion. But the Congress has decided not to join the government.
The leaders who had opposed the decision in the central work execution committee had thus no option but to vote as instructed.
When the Congress-led alliance that included the CPN (Maoist Centre) contested the November 20 polls and failed to give a government by the December 25 deadline, Dahal decided to reach out to the CPN-UML chief KP Sharma Oli in order to form a left majority government. The Congress had then accused the Maoist Centre of betrayal.
“The Congress and the Maoist Centre, along with other parties who contested the November polls, were in a comfortable position to form a government. But, back then, the party leadership could not make a wise decision,” KC said. “As the party was unable to form a government of its own, it would have been better had we decided not to give the vote of confidence to the Dahal government.”
Though there were voices in the Congress to sit in the opposition bench without supporting the prime minister, the establishment faction led by Sher Bahadur Deuba forced the party to decide otherwise, leaders said.
“The party decided to unanimously give [Dahal] the vote of confidence,” Congress deputy general secretary and lawmaker Badri Pandey Pandey told the Post. “Whether the Congress had some caveats will be clear in the upcoming days.”
Party President Deuba, addressing the Parliament prior to the vote, said that in order to protect the constitution the party had decided to back the Dahal-led government. Yet the Congress vote for Dahal still creates many doubts, say analysts.
“With the Congress’ support for Prime Minister Dahal, there could now be a new power struggle both within and among the parties around the election of the new President,” Chandara Dev Bhatta, a political scientist, told the Post.
On the other hand, Congress lawmaker Shankar Bhandari says his party has not supported Congress without a quid pro quo. Though he did not disclose details he claimed that “two parties definitely have a verbal agreement.” He also did not deny a possible support of the Maoist Centre in the Presidential election.
But another Congress leader Paudel refuted such claims. “It won’t be easy for Dahal, who became prime minister with the support of one party, to support another in the Presidential election,” he said.
Some Congress leaders also argued that the support of the Congress to Prime Minister Dahal will reduce the influence of UML chair Oli in government functioning.