Split in Ruling NCP

Provincial govts feel the heat as NCP’s Dahal-Nepal faction seeks to oust chief ministers close to PM Oli

Published On: December 28, 2020 07:33 PM NPT By: Kosh Raj Koirala  | @KoshRKoirala

 KATHMANDU, Dec 28: The vertical split in the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) following the decision of Prime Minister KP Oli to dissolve the House of Representatives (HoR) has sent ripples across the provincial governments led by the NCP in the country.

With the mathematical equation within the ruling NCP changing between the two factions  - one led by Prime Minister K P Oli and the other by Pushpa Kamal Dahal - six of the seven provincial governments led by the NCP are likely to see either change in the leadership or the coalition partners. 

As per the understanding reached between Prime Minister Oli and the rival faction leader Dahal during the formation of the provincial governments, three of them are led by the leaders close to the Oli faction in the erstwhile CPN-UML and two others are led by leaders close to Dahal, who led the erstwhile CPN (Maoist Center). Of the seven provincial governments, one provincial government --Province 2-- is led by Janata Samajbadi Party. 

Dahal and senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal-led faction in the NCP has already moved a vote of no-confidence motion against the chief ministers of Bagmati Province (Dor Mani Poudel) and the Province 1 Chief Minister Sherdhan Rai, while similar preparations are underway in Gandaki Province and Lumbini Province.

Sher Dhan Rai and Dor Mani Paudel -- both close to Prime Minister Oli -- were able to secure the party's leadership in the provincial governments after defeating their rivals Bhim Acharya and Asta Laxmi Shakya, respectively, in the parliamentary party elections. 

In the 93-member Provincial Assembly in Province 1, Rai has only 20 of the 67 seats bagged by the Nepal Communist Party—51 to former CPN-UML and 16 to the erstwhile CPN (Maoist Center). The main opposition party, Nepali Congress (NC), has a total 21 lawmakers in the provincial assembly. 

With the vertical split of the NCP, the Dahal-Nepal faction currently controls 47 of the total 67 seats. As many as 37 lawmakers led by Indra Bahadur Angbo close to the Dahal-Nepal faction on Sunday filed the motion proposing Bhim Acharya to replace Chief Minister Rai.

Similarly, the NCP has a total of 80 members in the 110-member provincial assembly of Bagmati Province. Of these 80 members, the Dahal-Nepal faction has the support of 46 while the Oli-led faction enjoys the support of 34 members. Likewise, Nepali Congress has 22, Bibeksheel Sajha Party has three, Rastriya Prajatantra Party and Nepal Workers' and Peasants Party have two lawmakers each and there is one independent lawmaker in the provincial assembly.  

Although the Dahal-Nepal faction commands a majority in the NCP parliamentary party committee in Province 1 and Bagmati Province, it is not possible for them to form a new government on their own without the support of the main opposition party. While the Oli-led faction is making an effort to woo NC to keep its leadership intact in Province 1 and Bagmati Province, sources say the Dahal-Nepal faction has also approached the NC for the formation of new governments in these provinces. 

Senior NC leaders, however, said they are yet to take any decision on supporting the Oli-led faction or Dahal-Nepal faction of the NCP in Province 1 and Bagmati Province as they await the verdict of the apex court on the dissolution of the House of Representatives (HoR). The NC organized mass protests in all 165 electoral constituencies against the move of Prime Minister Oli to dissolve the lower house of the federal parliament.

The provincial governments in Gandaki and Lumbini provinces appear relatively safe for now as the Dahal-Nepal-led faction does not command 25 percent of the total strength of the provincial assembly to file a vote of a no-confidence motion in these provincial assemblies. Of the total number of 60 provincial assembly members, the NCP alone has 40 lawmakers that includes 12 lawmakers elected from the erstwhile CPN (Maoist Center). 

Of the total 28 lawmakers elected from the erstwhile CPN-UML, 27 lawmakers are still in favor of Chief Minister Prithivi Subba Gurung - a confidante of Oli - one lawmaker has chosen to side with the Dahal-Nepal faction. The remaining 12 lawmakers excluding the speaker is not enough to file a no-confidence motion. Gurung is likely to stay unharmed if three lawmakers the National People's Front choose to extend their support to Gurung. 

There are a total 87 lawmakers in Lumbini Province. Of them, NCP alone has 41 lawmakers. In Lumbini Province, Chief Minister Pokharel is short of only four lawmakers to secure majority votes in the provincial assembly as only one of 41 lawmakers has chosen to side with the Dahal-Nepal faction. Since the lawmakers have continued changing their camps, Pokharel is likely to secure a majority to prolong his stay in power. 

The provincial governments in Karnali and Sudur Paschim provinces are led by former Maoist leaders close to Dahal. While Mahendra Bahadur Shahi is the chief minister of Karnali Province, Trilochan Bhatta is serving as chief minister of Sudur Paschim Province. 

Earlier in October, lawmakers close to the Oli faction had moved a vote of a no-confidence motion against Karnali Province Chief Minister Shahi. There are a total of 40 members in the Karnali province. Of them, NCP has a total of 33 lawmakers, while NC and Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) have six and 1 lawmakers, respectively. A total of 18 lawmakers - 15 representing the erstwhile CPN-UML and three from the former CPN(Maoist Center) - led by Yam Lal Kandel had filed a vote of a no-confidence motion against Chief Minister Shahi. 

The vote of no-confidence against Shahi was withdrawn after the agreement reached between Oli and Dahal. Although the Dahal-Nepal faction has challenged the chief ministers close to Oli in four provinces, sources said the Oli faction has decided not to make any efforts to oust Shahi and Bhatta for now.

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