Rift in Congress over fielding Koshi chief minister candidateCongress’ Kedar Karki, with backing of UML and 8 party members, challenges bid of coalition candidate Angbo.
The government formation process in Koshi Province took an unexpected turn after a group of Nepali Congress lawmakers revolted against the party’s decision to support the chief ministerial bid of Indra Bahadur Angbo, a CPN (Maoist Centre) assembly member.
Eight of the 29 Congress provincial assembly members came up with a proposal to field the party’s Kedar Karki for the position against the central leadership’s official decision. A meeting of the ruling coalition held at the prime minister’s residence in Kathmandu had earlier on Thursday decided to field Angbo in the chief minister race.
CPN-UML, the largest party in the Koshi assembly, has backed Karki.
From the Congress-led alliance, the Maoist Centre’s provincial assembly leader Angbo presented his claim before provincial head Parshuram Khapung.
On the other hand, Karki of the Shekhar Koirala faction of the Congress party also staked his claim for the chief minister job with the UML’s backing.
Karki presented his claim with the signatures of eight Congress assembly members and 39 UML members. Angbo of the Maoist Centre has presented his set of signatures as well. Angbo has staked his claim with the signatures of 47 MPs including 29 of the Congress, Maoist Centre’s 13, Unified Socialist’s four, and one from the Janata Samajbadi Party.
The Congress MPs supporting Karki for chief minister are Ram Kumar Khatri and Leela Kumari Rai from Udayapur, Shamsher Rai and Govinda Giri from Ilam, Indira Thapa from Dhankuta, Man Bahadur Limbu from Morang, and Sunita Kumari Gurung from Sunsari.
The eight Congress assembly members reached the office of the provincial head and submitted an application saying they supported Karki. They claimed that Angbo had misused their signatures.
The office of the provincial head said the chief minister will be appointed after 5 pm on Friday after verifying the signatures. Provincial head Khapung said that since the claims of two lawmakers have been submitted, he will appoint the chief minister with the help of the provincial assembly members and after legal consultations.
Karki said he staked the claim for chief minister as he saw no ground for Angbo to win the trust vote.
Asked if the party would take action against him, Karki argued that he came forward to stake the claim to stop the province from heading to mid-term polls. If a chief minister appointed this time is unable to secure the confidence of the assembly, the province would have no option other than to go for a snap election.
“There is no question of the party’s interference here. Any provincial lawmaker who has the required number of votes can submit a claim to the provincial head as per Article 168 (5) of the constitution,” he said.
“The last option for government formation passes the onus to the provincial assembly members if the political parties fail to form a government. If a party takes action against any lawmaker, it will be considered a violation of the constitution.”
Dissatisfied with his party’s decision to back Angbo for chief minister, senior Congress leader Koirala instructed the provincial lawmakers to field Congress’s Karki for the top post with the backing of the UML, according to a Congress leader.
Koirala has accused party president Deuba, general secretaries duo Gagan Thapa and Bishwa Prakash Sharma and other leaders of not making efforts to form a Congress-led government. “They are instead working to appoint a Maoist as chief minister, which is unacceptable,” a leader quoted Koirala as saying.
Meanwhile, deputy provincial assembly leader Himal Karki of the Congress resigned the post Thursday, expressing dissatisfaction over the party’s support for Angbo.
The UML has 40 seats including the deputy Speaker, Congress 29, the Maoist Centre 13, Rastriya Prajatantra Party six, CPN (Unified Socialist) four, and Janata Samajbadi Party has one seat in the 93-member assembly.
As the post of Speaker is currently vacant, the deputy Speaker will chair the meeting and a member chairing the meeting can’t vote. The support of 47 lawmakers is needed for a majority to form the government. The RPP has yet to announce its support for any side.
Province Head Khapung on Saturday had invited provincial members to stake their claim to the chief minister’s post and form a government in the province.
Issuing a notice, Khapung, in accordance with Article 168(5) of the constitution, asked provincial members who can secure the confidence of the assembly to stake their claims for the chief ministerial position by 5pm on Friday.
The move followed the resignation by Hikmat Karki, ahead of a confidence vote in the assembly.
UML provincial assembly leader Karki, who was appointed chief minister as per Article 168 (3) of the constitution on September 8 following a Supreme Court order, had a constitutional obligation to secure a vote of confidence by Saturday.
Appointment of a chief minister in accordance with Article 168(5) and securing a trust vote within 30 days thereafter is crucial. Failure to do so will take the province to mid-term polls. The assembly has exhausted all other options to appoint a chief minister since the election last year.