KATHMANDU, May 28: In a dramatic turn of events, the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has withdrawn its support given to Chief Minister Lalbabu Raut-led coalition government in Province 2 on Sunday, hours after Raut's party, the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN), resumed long stalled negotiation with Prime Minister KP Oli to join the federal government.
With the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal and two assembly members by its side, Raut's government still retains a majority although the withdrawal has deprived it of two-thirds support in the provincial assembly.
NCP leaders said that the party withdrew support in the backdrop of growing differences with Chief Minister Raut over matters related to governance and development activities.
"Although we were part of the alliance, Raut seldom consulted our party on important matters," Satya Narayan Mandal, a CPN provincial assembly member, said. He said that the party has already notified the assembly's speaker about the party's decision to withdraw support to the Raut government.
The ruling party's withdrawal of support has fueled speculation of change in government in Province 2. Some NCP leaders said that the withdrawal of support has opened the possibility of a realignment in the coalition.
But they would not confirm whether such realignment would take place with FSFN or without it.
A few other NCP leaders said that the withdrawal was not driven by urgency to change the helm of the government.
The withdrawal of support came as a surprise to many as it happened on the same day of FSFN Chair Upendra Yadav holding "a fruitful" one-on-one with Prime Minister Oli. Leaders briefed on the agenda of the meeting said that Oli had expressed willingness to bring FSFN on board the government. Following the meeting, FSFN had agreed to withdraw proposed amendment to the policy and programs of the government.
"Our party withdrew it (amendment proposal) after the prime minister assured us that our party would be treated as a part of the ruling coalition," FSFN senior leader Ashok Rai said.
UML leader Subas Nembang confirmed that Prime Minister Oli and FSFN Chair Upendra Yadav met on Sunday.
"Talks are in progress between the two chairmen on the matter (to bring the FSFN on board the government)," Nembang, who is also the NCP's deputy parliamentary party leader, told Republica. He said that the reason behind the withdrawal of support in Province 2 would be apparent in the next few days but refused to divulge details.
Sunday's development is being seen as meaningful as NCP leaders are in parallel negotiations with RJPN leaders to explore the possibility of alliance at the center as well as in the province. In a meeting with Oli, RJPN leaders had said they were ready for a partnership if the constitution was amended to address their concerns.
But Rai ruled out the possibility of change in the coalition between the FSFN and RJPN.
"Such a move would be against the mandate of the election and could have devastating impact for both the parties.
FSFN leaders, however, said that Raut's removal was likely as his working style was drawing criticism both within the party and outside.