Karki, who defied party decision, appointed Koshi chief ministerCongress-Maoist alliance soon embraced him, for the sake of ‘saving the central coalition’.
Karki led a group of eight Congress lawmakers who revolted against the party’s decision to support a Maoist lawmaker for the chief minister position. He was backed by the CPN-UML, the largest party in the provincial assembly. Karki challenged the decision of the all-powerful party president Sher Bahadur Deuba, and joined hands with the rival party to become the chief minister under the guidance of Shekhar Koirala, who leads the party’s dissident faction.
On Friday, Karki produced the signatures of 47 lawmakers—eight from his party and 39 from the UML—before Province Head Parshuram Khapung. But Indra Bahadur Angbo of the CPN (Maoist Centre) also submitted his application to the province head, claiming the support of 47 lawmakers. Khapung couldn’t decide immediately as top leaders of the ruling coalition in Kathmandu, including Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Congress President Deuba, recognised Angbo as their official candidate.
On Saturday morning, Khapung appointed Karki the new chief minister after 47 lawmakers went to the province head’s office to verify their signatures supporting the dissident candidate. Angbo didn’t even show up to reaffirm his claim to the post.
Karki was appointed as per Article 168(5) of the constitution as he proved the majority in his favour in the 93-member provincial assembly. The new chief minister will take the oath of office on Sunday.
Karki has been the eighth chief minister of Koshi Province since the 2017 elections first formed provincial governments. Karki’s appointment is the fifth since the assembly election on December 26, 2022. After that, Hikmat Karki of the UML and Uddhav Thapa of the Congress were each appointed chief minister twice but their governments collapsed as they failed to secure the trust vote.
Kedar Karki is scheduled to form a small Cabinet after the oath. He went to Kathmandu on Saturday, apparently to consult Shekhar Koirala and other Congress leaders.
Responding to journalists’ queries, Karki described his appointment as lawmakers’ “conscious and responsible decision” to avert mid-term polls in the province.
“I have become chief minister by a joint effort of the lawmakers to avert mid-term polls in the province. This is neither a partisan alliance nor a new coalition in Koshi,” he said. “The unity among provincial lawmakers has averted mid-term polls and we will run a stable government now.”
He also claimed that his appointment shouldn’t be described as a revolt against the Congress leadership and the decision of the ruling coalition in Kathmandu.
“The attempts of forming a government only with the strength of the coalition partners has proved futile repeatedly in this province,” he said. “Therefore, assembly members rose above their partisan interests and took a move to save the assembly.”
Karki claimed that the decision was right, also considering the statement by Prime Minister Dahal, who owned up to Karki’s appointment as the coalition’s choice.
Dahal, who reached Chitwan on Saturday, said that the dispute seen in the Congress over the Koshi issue was safely resolved. “Kedar Karki is the chief minister for all of us,” he said. “Differences in politics are common. This [episode] hasn’t caused any damage to the coalition.”
After failing to convince Kedar Karki and Shekhar Koirala to pull out of the race, top leaders in Kathmandu had decided to support Karki so as not to cause any harm to the coalition. Prime Minister Dahal, Congress President Deuba and Shekhar Koirala signed an agreement to this effect on Saturday morning.
“We are firm and clear in favour of the ruling coalition and we will not allow for any act that weakens this coalition,” read the agreement signed by the trio.
Karki said he will form a small Cabinet on Sunday, after consultation with the lawmakers who supported his appointment.
Following the resignation by UML’s Hikmat Karki as the chief provincial administrator, just ahead of a floor test, Province Head Khapung had invited assembly members to stake their claims on the position by 5pm Friday.
Meanwhile, Congress provincial assembly leader Uddhav Thapa, who is considered close to party senior leader Krishna Prasad Sitaula, resigned from the post. Thapa said he quit on moral grounds. He is also the president of the Congress Koshi chapter.