Nepal Communist Party split was expected to have repercussions

रेडियो दर्पण संवाददाता

Kathmandu, December 26

As expected, repercussions of the split in the Nepal Communist Party have now started to emerge in provinces, with Bagmati Province standing in line to be the first casualty.

As many as 45 members of the Bagmati Provincial Assembly on Friday filed a no-confidence motion against Chief Minister Dormani Poudel.

The members, belonging to the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-Madhav Nepal faction, have proposed Asta Laxmi Shakya as the new chief minister.

Poudel belongs to the faction led by KP Sharma Oli.

Prime Minister Oli’s decision to dissolve the House of Representatives on Sunday resulted in a split in the Nepal Communist Party, which was formed in May 2018 through a merger between then CPN-UML and the Maoist Centre.

Both Oli and Dahal-Nepal factions now are in a bid to wrest control of the party.

After the 2017 elections, the Nepal Communist Party had formed governments in six out of the seven provinces. Now with the party split between the Oli and Dahal-Nepal factions, equations are likely to change in provinces quickly, leaders say.

In the 110-member Bagmati Provincial Assembly, Nepal Communist Party has 80 seats, which are now divided between the Dahal-Nepal and Oli factions at 46 and 34.

Internal Affairs Minister Shalikram Jamarkattel proposed the no-confidence motion, which was seconded by Minister for Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment Arun Prasad Nepal.

Jamarkattel is a former Maoist leader close to Dahal while Nepal is close to Madhav Nepal.

“We have proposed Ashta Laxmi Shakya as the next chief minister,” Ratna Dhakal, a member of the assembly and a central committee member, told the Post.

Both Jamarkattel and Nepal, along with Minister for Social Development Yubaraj Dulal, resigned on Friday.

The next province that is likely to be affected is Province 1 where Chief Minister Sherdhan Rai is already in the minority. Rai is one of the close confidants of Oli.

In the 93-member Provincial Assembly, Rai has only 20 seats of 67 that went to the Nepal Communist Party—51 to former UML and 16 to the former Maoist party.

The Dahal-Nepal faction now controls 47 seats.

“I don’t think the leaders are preparing for a no-confidence motion in Province 1 but that is inevitable now,” said Hemraj Bhandari, a central member who belongs to the Dahal-Nepal faction representing Province 1. “Having a majority in the Provincial Assembly, it is unlikely that Dahal and Nepal will accept Rai as chief minister.”

Since Article 188 (4) of the constitution says one-fourth of the total number of the assembly members may table in writing a motion of no-confidence against the chief minister, the Dahal-Nepal faction can easily make a move if it wants.

“It is obvious that the long-standing contradictions in Province 1 and Bagmati Province over the selection of chief ministers will reappear after the split in the party,” said Raghuji Pant, a Standing Committee member now with the Dahal-Nepal faction. “The incumbent chief ministers of the two provinces were appointed forcibly.”

There were disagreements when Poudel and Rai were elected chief ministers in Province 1 and Bagmati. However, Oli had managed to bulldoze his decisions.

In Bagmati, Shakya, a Standing Committee member considered to be close to Madhav Nepal, was tipped to be the chief minister, but Poudel was chosen later through an election conducted at Oli’s insistence, party leaders say.

In Province 1, Bhim Acharya and Rai, both from then UML, were in the fray for the post of provincial parliamentary party leader. Acharya was defeated by Rai by just two votes. Acharya is with the Dahal-Nepal faction now.

According to Pant, changes are likely to happen in other provinces as well.

Despite having a majority in Lumbini Province, whose Chief Minister Shankar Pokhrel is Oli’s close ally, the equation can change quite easily, insiders say.

In the 87-member assembly, the Nepal Communist Party had won 61 seats. After the split, the Daha-Nepal faction has 25 seats while the Oli faction has 36.

The Nepali Congress, Janata Samajbadi Party and Janamorcha have 19, six and one seats, respectively.

Leaders say the Dahal-Nepal faction can easily file a no-confidence motion against Pokhrel and form a government by seeking support of the Congress party in Lumbini.

The Dahal-Nepal faction controls a majority in Karnali and Sudurpaschim as well. In the 40-member Provincial Assembly in Karnali, the Dahal-Nepal faction has 20 seats and the Oli faction has 13. In Sudurpaschim, which has a 53-member assembly, the Dahal-Nepal faction controls 31 seats and the Oli faction 8.

The only province where the Oli faction appears to be strong is Gandaki.

In the 60-member assembly, the Oli faction controls 27 seats. The Dahal-Nepal faction controls 13 seats. The Nepali Congress, Janamorcha and Janata Samajbadi Party have 15, 3 and two seats, respectively.

“We have not discussed any changes in the government yet,” said Hari Chuman, internal affairs minister of Gandaki Province who belongs to the Dahal-Nepal faction. “But it also depends on how the Oli faction behaves in the near future.”

Even if the Dahal-Nepal faction does not make any move in provinces, concerns are growing if Oli himself will dissolve the provincial governments.

In a television interview aired on Wednesday, Oli said that he will have to take “tough steps” if no-confidence motions are brought to make provincial governments unstable.

The President has constitutional power to dissolve the provincial governments.

Article 232 (3) of the constitution which is related to relations between the federation, provinces and local level states that if any province indulges in an act that would have a serious effect on Nepal’s sovereignty, territorial integrity or independence, autonomy, the President shall, according to the need, reprimand such a province, suspend or dissolve the Council of Ministers of the province and the provincial assembly.

But at a time when the President has already attracted a lot of criticism for swiftly endorsing Oli’s move of dissolving the House of Representatives, many say dissolutions of provincial assemblies by her are not quite likely.

The House dissolution by Oli and President has already landed in the court and the Constitutional Bench started a hearing on writs against the move on Friday.

Ram Narayan Bidari, a National Assembly member, said the constitution does allow the President to dissolve the provincial assemblies but there are conditions.

“The conditions are clear. The President can dissolve them only when there is an act having a serious effect on sovereignty, territorial integrity or independence and autonomy,” said Bidari, also an advocate, who belongs to the Dahal-Nepal faction.

“That said, who knows the provincial assemblies could also face the fate of the House of Representatives, as it was dissolved despite the constitutional provisions not allowing the prime minister to do so.