The issue of registration of no confidence motion against Karnali Chief Minister (CM) Mahendra Bahadur Shahi has put CMs in other provinces under risk.
Eighteen CPN lawmakers including 15 from erstwhile CPN-UML and three from CPN (Maoist Center) on October 11 had registered no confidence motion at the parliamentary party against CM Shahi, a former Maoist, on initiation of Yam Lal Kandel who is from Chairman KP Sharma Oli's camp.
The post of CM Shahi seems to be safe for now as Senior Leader Madhav Kumar Nepal allied with Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal to save his job but the precedent puts CMs from Oli faction in other provinces under threat.
CPN, formed after unification of UML and Maoist Center, has majority in all the provinces apart from Province 2. The two parties reached a power sharing agreement before formal unification giving four CMs to the erstwhile UML and two to the Maoists.
Oli has made his men CM in all the four provinces to the chagrin of the Nepal faction as he had majority in the then UML parliamentary party before unification. But addition of Maoist lawmakers after unification to form CPN has changed the balance in the provinces.
The registration of no confidence motion against Shahi, a former Maoist, by Oli faction has brought Dahal and Nepal together again after Nepal was unhappy with Dahal for reaching power sharing agreement following the recent intra-party dispute in the ruling party.
The precedent in Karnali now means Dahal and Nepal can ally to register no confidence motion against CMs in other provinces. The Dahal and Nepal factions together have clear majority in Province 1, Bagmati and Lumbini.
"There are different factions in the party. The establishment has started it in Karnali and this has sent a message that one can do whatever is possible. We should take it as the party allowing the leaders at the provinces to exercise their rights," CPN standing committee member Bhim Acharya, who is from the Nepal faction and had lost the UML parliamentary party election to eventual CM of Province 1 Sher Dhan Rai, told Setopati. "It has sent a message that the lawmakers can choose and change their parliamentary party leader as written in the Constitution."
He stressed that the exercise in Karnali has sent a message that decision can be reviewed on the basis of performance of the parliamentary party leader.
Leaders from the Oli camp, however, argue that the Karnali precedent cannot be applied in other provinces. Standing committee member and deputy parliamentary party leader in the House of Representatives (HoR) Subash Chandra Nembang stated that the two chairmen will resolve the Karnali dispute and added there is no need to unnecessarily speculate about other provinces.
But those in the Dahal-Nepal faction beg to differ. "There can be massive changes in power equation in other provinces apart from Gandaki if Dahal and Nepal were to wish," a leader close to Nepal confided. "The attitude of Oli and the kind of stand Dahal will take will determine that."
The current dispute, if allowed to fester, will not just lead to efforts at toppling the provincial governments but even at the center. "The attitude of Oli is to bulldoze defiantly. Others will not always remain silent," a leader close to Dahal said. "The exercise of Karnali cannot just be repeated in other provinces but even at the center."
Standing committee member Leela Mnai Pokharel demanded standing committee meeting to discuss the Karnali dispute and pointed that the center cannot interfere in the provinces. "The spirit of federalism will be destroyed if the center intervenes. We must be alert that the problem created by Karnali does not spread to other provinces. But having said that, every province is free to take their decisions," he stressed. "Provincial governments are free to do everything apart from matters related to army, diplomatic relationship, international treaties and printing currency."