Dahal tries to woo dissatisfied Janamat PartyBudget shows his support base is shrinking. PM risks having to go for floor test again if CK Raut’s party pulls the plug.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has urged Janamat Party not to withdraw its support to the government saying that he was serious about increasing the budget for the Madhesh Province in appropriate ways.
The CK Raut-led party says the national budget is biased against Madhesh. In the House of Representatives on Wednesday, he did not support the budget for the new fiscal year. After the Dahal administration got the budget passed by Parliament defying calls for revision to the fiscal estimates, pressure is growing for the party to withdraw its support, Janamat leaders say.
Dahal on Saturday met Raut and urged him to continue the party’s support. "However, we cannot [continue to] be part of the ruling alliance that is biased towards Madhesh and the Madheshi people," Chandan Singh, general secretary of the Janamat Party, told the Post.
Janamat has called a meeting of its central committee on Sunday to discuss its move. Singh said Sunday's meeting is unlikely to reach a decision on whether to quit the government or remain in it, the party could be authorised to take a call.
"Since this government has long been ignoring the concerns of our party, calls are growing louder to withdraw support to it," Abdul Khan, the party's vice chairperson, told the Post.
The major bone of contention between the government and the Janamat is Dahal’s refusal to give the party the ministry it wanted. It had been seeking to lead either the Ministry of Agriculture or the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies. The Janamat Party got the water supply ministry instead.
The party quit the federal government on March 31, having been denied a ministerial berth of its choice even when the Cabinet was reshuffled after the CPN-UML quit the ruling alliance.
The party’s minister, Abdul Khan, resigned after the Ministry of Industry that his party was laying its claim to was given to the Nepali Congress.
Dahal, who is gradually losing his hold in Parliament, doesn't want to lose Janamat Party. In his first vote of trust on January 10, Dahal garnered the support of 268 lawmakers in the 275-strong House. He had to go for the floor test again on March 20 after the UML and the Rastriya Prajatantra Party no longer backed his government.
Dahal survived, securing 172 votes. Along with the CPN (Maoist Centre), he received a vote of confidence from the Congress, the Rastriya Swatantra Party, the Janata Samajbadi Party, the CPN (Unified Socialist), the Janamat Party, the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party, the Nagarik Unmukti Party, three independent lawmakers and the Rastriya Janamorcha. In Wednesday's vote on the budget, Dahal got the backing of only 147 House members, marginally above the required majority of 138. This shows the government’s support base is diminishing in Parliament.
Dahal might have to face the House again to prove the majority’s support if the Janamat Party decides to part ways. Article 100 (2) of the constitution says “the prime minister shall table a motion for the vote of confidence in the House of Representatives if the party which the prime minister represents is divided or the party in the government withdraws its support.”
Dahal, however, argues that he doesn't need to face another vote of confidence as long as he enjoys the minimum support necessary. The government will not fall into the minority even if the Janamat Party with six seats decides to withdraw the support. "The Dahal government will continue to command a majority even if a few fringe parties take back their support. So I don't think he needs to seek the vote of confidence. The decision, however, can be challenged in court," said Mohan Lal Acharya, a constitutional lawyer.