The main opposition Nepali Congress (NC) demanded resignation of Prime Minister (PM) KP Sharma Oli and decided to take initiative to form new government on Friday.
But NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba still seems reluctant to start the initiative in earnest and Senior Leader Ram Chandra Paudel seems to be laying the groundwork instead. Paudel, who was instrumental in getting the central committee meeting take the decision on Friday, met Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP) Chairman Mahantha Thakur at the latter's residence in Hattiban on Sunday.
Paudel had urged Vice-president and Deuba's confidant Bimalendra Nidhi to ask Deuba to become PM and assured to talk with JSP if Deuba agrees to become PM before the party's central committee meeting at the party office in Sanepa on Friday.
But Deuba still does not believe that the whole of JSP will vote for him and, therefore, is focused more on the party's general convention than becoming PM, according to a leader close to him. The leader claimed that India still wants to continue Oli as PM and added that there is therefore little chance of Deuba trying too hard to become PM.
The fourth largest party in the House JSP, and not NC or Oli, will play a decisive role in formation of the government considering the arithmetic in the House. The Oli government will be in minority the moment CPN (Maoist Center) withdraws its support.
Oli can save his government with support of JSP but the party is divided on whether to support him or not. JSP leaders Baburam Bhattarai and Upendra Yadav, coming from erstwhile Federal Socialist Forum Nepal, have publicly demanded toppling of Oli government while leaders from the erstwhile Rastriya Janata Party like Mahantha Thakur and Rajendra Mahato are negotiating with Oli.
JSP currently has 32 seats—excluding two suspended lawmakers—with 16 from erstwhile RJP and 16 from Federal Socialist Forum Nepal. Both the pro- andante-Oli factions claim to have majority in JSP.
A former RJP leader claimed that the majority of lawmakers will support Oli if the negotiation bears fruits. But a leader from erstwhile Federal Socialist Forum countered that leaders like Mahendra Yadav, Raj Kishor Yadav and others are not in favor of joining the Oli government. "Sharat Singh Bhandari is also in favor of alliance excluding Oli rather than allying with Oli," the leader stated.
Another JSP leader confided that both the factions are ready to split the party to forge ruling alliance if necessary.
If RJP were to split with 15 or 16 lawmakers to support Oli, he can save his government with support of lawmakers Durga Paudel (Rastriya Janamorcha), Prem Suwal (Nepal Workers and Peasants Party) and Rajendra Lingden (RPP) who are in the House as independent lawmakers with their respective parties failing to become national party.
Oli can reach the magic figure of 138 with support of 121 CPN-UML lawmakers, RJP lawmakers and the three independent lawmakers in that case.
But the Khanal-Nepal faction of CPN-UML may still upset the apple cart. The faction has at least 35 seats and has already started to form parallel committees after Oli suspended four leaders including Madhav Kumar Nepal, Bhim Rawal, Surendra Pandey and Ghanashyam Bhsual from the party for six months.
The faction has concluded that Oli will continue to suppress it as long as he remains PM and may even cross the floor to topple Oli government. But many lawmakers don't want the situation to come to that and would prefer NC, Maoist Center and JSP to come together to oust Oli, according to a leader from the faction.
But the politics must move forward from the current situation to come to the point where UML lawmakers cross the floor to oust Oli. Deuba will have to seriously make efforts to form new government for that to happen. "But that is not seen until now. Let's wait and see what Deuba does in the coming days," a JSP leader said.