The ruling coalition wants to ally for the upcoming parliamentary elections buoyed by the success of local elections while the main opposition CPN-UML is hoping for a crack in the coalition.
Nepali Congress (NC) has already taken a decision through the central committee meeting to forge electoral alliance even in the provincial and federal elections guaranteeing that the grand old party will not go all alone in the elections.
“This central committee meeting takes a decision to move forward by carrying out electoral alliance with the parties in the ruling coalition through mutual dialogue targeting clear majority in the upcoming House of Representatives (HoR) and provincial assembly elections for Congress,” the decision states.
Coalition partners, especially the left parties, are both hopeful and wary after the decision. They are happy that NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba managed to endorse the electoral alliance through the central committee even though many in the party were against electoral alliance in the recent local elections and even the upcoming ones.
They are wary because NC wants to secure majority by using the coalition if possible and would try to keep as many seats with it as possible while sharing seats among the coalition partners.
NC reportedly wants to initiate dialogue for sharing seats in a way that it wins at least 85 of the 165 seats in the first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system. NC Spokesperson Prakash Sharan Mahat told Setopati that Deuba will soon initiate dialogue in the coalition to that regard.
The fact that Shekhar Koirala, who lost the runoff for party presidency to Deuba in the general convention, and General Secretaries Gagan Thapa and Bishwa Prakash Sharma proposed that seat-sharing should be done on the basis of the votes received by the parties in the recent local elections has made the coalition partners more suspicious.
Once bitten, twice shy. Deuba saw NC shrink to just 23 FPTP seats in the last general election after CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli and CPN (Maoist Center) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal unexpectedly announced electoral alliance with promise of post-election unification even as Dahal was bargaining with Deuba on sharing of seats.
Deuba, therefore, refused to put that clause in the central committee’s decision fearing that the coalition partners will be miffed by that. He believes that alliance with UML can be stopped if the left parties in the coalition are kept happy.
The other parties in the coalition, especially the left ones, are planning to move forward by forming a front to put pressure on NC which, on the other hand, fears that the parties will bargain for more seats and may ally with any party including UML if denied.
Maoist Center, which wants honorable power sharing, is suspicious after NC took the decision with a strategy of forming the next government under its leadership. “We will discuss the issue with NC leadership instead of immediately reacting to the NC’s decision. Discussion on the issue will be held soon,” Maoist leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha said.
Dahal has already hinted about seeking to take turns as prime minister (PM) with NC by expressing desire to once again become PM.
Addressing a program organized by Nepal Mountaineering Association in Kathmandu on June 24, Dahal, who has become PM twice in the past, had said he dreamed to take the country toward a new era by becoming a PM once again pointing that he played a leading role in establishing the current system.
"The first term as PM was over in glitter. Nine months passed away even as I tried to find out whether that was dream or reality. A new situation arose. I really tried to reform many things when I became PM the second time. I am proud of that. Taking the country toward election taking the Madhes into confidence when there were questions about even national unity was not a small deal," he elaborated.
He said that he was ready to once again become PM if he were to get an opportunity, and take the country toward a new era by attacking all the malpractices seen in the country now.
He conceded that discussion on taking turns as PM can be held in an interview with Kantipur after returning from India recently. “PM Deuba is flexible about taking turns. He says we will go together on the issue of power sharing,” he stated.
UML has accused Dahal of going to India to guarantee that he will get to become PM. He met Deuba’s wife Arzu Rana Deuba, who was in India for treatment, during the visit. Dahal insists that his meeting with Arzu was a mere courtesy call but the main opposition has been claiming that Dahal sought guarantee from both India and Arzu on the issue. “They don’t even get 12 percent of votes and run abroad to get PM,” UML General Secretary Shankar Pokharel took a swipe at Dahal addressing a program on Wednesday.
Maoist Center leader Haribol Gajurel says that the party’s standing committee will discuss about sharing of seats. “We have become the decisive force after the local election. There is opinion that seats and power should be shared on the basis of our status.”
Maoist Center had won 36 FPTP seats and UML 80 in the last general election following their alliance. Gajurel stresses that the party wants to add on those seats. “We will move forward in a way to correct past weaknesses, and preparations are on for unification or forming a front including Baburam Bhattarai and left parties in the coalition including CPN (Unified Socialist),” Gajurel reveals.
Unified Socialist, formed after splitting from UML, is also under pressure to perform well on its debut parliamentary elections. It is not satisfied with its performance in the local elections and Chairman Madhav Kumar Nepal has been instructing party cadres to not depend on others and perform well on its own and secure as many proportional representation (PR) votes as possible.
UML suffered some losses due to Unified Socialist in the recent local elections. UML General Secretary Pokharel concedes that it lost around 500,000 votes due to Unified Socialist. UML, therefore, is working to attract some leaders from Unified Socialist before the parliamentary elections.
Oli has mobilized younger leaders like Bishnu Paudel, Pradeep Gyawali and others to initiate dialogue with Unified Socialist leaders. “A few leaders of ours and UML leaders are in continuous dialogue. But we are not in favor of going together with UML. We are for stronger presence remaining within the coalition,” Unified Socialist Deputy General Secretary Ganga Lal Tuladhar says.
Unified Socialist’s continuous dialogue is also part of its strategy to put pressure on coalition partners for a greater share of seats.
Another coalition partner Janata Samajwadi party (JSP) has also taken a decision through the central committee meeting to continue the coalition even in the elections. It plans to seek a larger share of seats in Madhes to further strengthen its position there, according to leader Rameshwore Yadav.
UML seems to be aware that the party will again suffer if the ruling coalition were to continue even in the parliamentary elections. And Oli is mobilizing younger leaders to separate the left parties from the coalition, if not ally them with UML.
UML is likely to contest the elections proposing Oli as the next PM. And Oli, who failed to complete the full term as PM despite CPN formed after unification of UML and Maoist Center having almost two-thirds majority in the House, knows that it will be virtually impossible to secure majority on its own.
UML, therefore, is under pressure to try to break the ruling coalition before elections if possible and at least after the elections. It is counting on disaffection within the coalition partners at the time of sharing seats and wants to capitalize on that to yet again form a left alliance before the elections.