Befriend and betray: It’s all too easy for Nepali politiciansThe federal coalition is on the brink with Dahal, CPN (Maoist Centre) chief and prime minister, backing a Congress candidate for President.
Unexpected developments within months of government formation and overnight dramatic turn of events have become a norm in Nepali politics. The prevailing crisis in the incumbent coalition government formed on December 25 is a case in point.
The seven-party ruling coalition government comprising CPN-UML, CPN (Maoist Centre), Rastriya Swatantra Party, Rastriya Prajantra Party, Janata Samajbadi Party, Janamat Party and Nagarik Unmukti Party that supported Maoist Centre chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal for prime minister, is now teetering on the brink of collapse, after just two months.
Political science professor at Tribhuvan University Rajesh Gautam said one needs to look at the ongoing situation from two perspectives. “In an electoral system like ours where it is almost impossible for any single party to win a clear majority, election alliances become necessary to form government,” Gautam told the Post. “However, alliances usually don’t last long in Nepal since our politicians don’t have an alliance culture.”
The seven-party alliance formed last December after the collapse of the Congress-led five-party alliance during the prime ministerial election could not sustain even until the presidential election, which is scheduled for March 9. Dahal soon after being elected as prime minister advocated ‘national consensus’ on the candidate of President.
Ignoring his earlier purported commitment to back a UML nominee for President, Dahal on Saturday supported the Congress candidate for the Presidential post.
When four parties (Maoist Centre, Janata Samajbadi Party, Janamat Party, Nagarik Unmukti) of the unravelling seven-party alliance supported Congress leader Ram Chandra Paudel’s candidacy for President, the UML’s candidate Subas Nembang had the support of his party members only.
Political analyst Rajendra Maharajan said political alliances in Nepal are typically short-lived since the parties lack a coalition culture. “When leaders give priority to personal interests over that of their parties’, alliances are always in danger of collapse. And this has been happening in Nepal for years,” Maharajan said.
Dahal’s first premiership in 2009 had ended after then President Ram Baran Yadav blocked the former’s decision to sack the army chief. Despite being the largest party in the first Constituent Assembly, Dahal had to step down within mere nine months in government. After losing the premiership, Dahal not only spewed venom against President Yadav, his party also launched nationwide protests against the President’s move to scrap the executive prime minister’s decision.
But now, the same Maoist leader Dahal has ditched his two-month-old alliance with another left party, the CPN-UML, to support a Congress leader for President. He now looks more comfortable working with Congress leaders than with those from other communist parties.
If the making and unmaking of coalitions since 2017 are any guide, there are clear indications that such incidents have become a norm in Nepali politics.
From the local elections of 2017 to the presidential election of 2023, Nepali politics has witnessed more than half a dozen alliances. “The alliance formed in one context hasn’t lasted until the next political scenario,” political analyst Maharajan said.
In the local election held in 2017, Congress and Maoist Centre forged a partial coalition where they together fought elections in some of the local units like Bharatpur and Pokhara. When Congress and Maoist Centre joined hands in certain municipalities, UML forged a similar partnership with the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP). The alliance formed during the local election, however, could not continue in the general election held at the end of the same year.
In the general election of 2017 when UML and the Maoist Centre came together to form a ‘left alliance’, Congress formed a ‘democratic alliance’ with the RPP and other parties. The general election of 2017 also saw another alliance of Madhesh-based parties, which was focused on the Madhesh Province and Tarai districts.
The then Rastriya Janata Party led by Mahanta Thakur and Sanghiya Samajbadi Party led by Upendra Yadav had an electoral alliance. The two parties later merged to form the Janta Samajbadi Party. Their unity, however, didn’t last long.
The UML and the Maoist Centre, which fought the 2017 general and provincial elections together, merged to form the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) in 2018. The NCP, which had almost two-thirds majority in the 275-seat lower house, however, could not last long due to the internal struggles within the party. The infighting resulted in the dissolution of parliament for the first time on December 20, 2020.
When an NCP faction led by KP Shrama Oli helmed the government, the other faction led by Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal took to the streets against Oli’s decision to dissolve parliament. The Supreme Court ordered the restoration of parliament on February 23, 2021. Later, on March 7, the Supreme Court termed the merger of the CPN-UML and the CPN (Maoist Centre) to form the NCP, illegitimate and ruled that their status remained the same as before their merger.
Soon after the Court’s decision, coalition partners who had fought the 2017 elections under an alliance, got separated. Later, when Oli on May 22 decided to dissolve the parliament for the second time, the dissident faction of the UML led by Nepal and Maoist Centre, the Janata Samjbadi Party and the Rastriya Janamorcha joined hands with the Congress and formed an alliance to unseat Oli from the prime ministerial position.
With the formation of the Deuba government in accordance with the Supreme Court order, the dissident faction of the UML led by Nepal, split from the UML and launch the CPN (Unified Socialist) on August 25, 2021.
The five-party alliance under the leadership of Congress fought the local elections on May 13, 2022. However, the JSP led by Upendra Yadav quit the five-party coalition during the federal and provincial elections held on November 20 and joined hands with the UML. When JSP left the Congress-led coalition Loktantrik Samajbadi Party led by Mahantha Thakur, who was earlier close to Oli, joined the Congress-led five-party alliance.
Dahal’s party, the Maoist Centre, won 32 seats in the House of Representatives with the support of the Congress-led coalition. But when Deuba didn’t support him to become prime minister, the latter ditched the alliance and befriended Oli to form a new alliance on December 25. Now Dahal has ditched Oli to forge a new alliance with the Congress in the presidential election.