Nepali Congress set to stake claim to form government in Nepal
Kathmandu, May 12: Nepal's main Opposition party the Nepali Congress has decided to stake a claim for the prime minister's post, a day after the President called on political parties to form a new government by Thursday as the one headed by K P Sharma Oli lost a crucial trust vote.
The decision to form a new government was taken after the office bearers of the Nepali Congress (NC) met on Tuesday. The party, led by Sher Bahadur Deuba, has the backing of the Nepal Communist Party Maoist Centre (CPN-MC) and hopes to get the support of Janata Samajbadi Party-Nepal's (JSPN) lawmakers.
The Office of President Bidya Devi Bhandari on Monday said she has decided to invite parties to form a majority government pursuant to Article 76 (2) of the Constitution of Nepal.
It also hopes to influence lawmakers of the CPN- UML faction led by Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal to help it form the government, The Himalayan Times reported.
The NC has 61 and the CPN-MC 49 lawmakers in the 271-member House of Representatives. The party will need 26 more lawmakers to form a coalition government led by it. The JSP-N, with 32 lawmakers, will play a key role in the formation of the government, the report said.
A faction of the JSP-N led by Mahantha Thakur and Rajendra Mahato, which has 15 lawmakers who stayed neutral in Monday's floor test, has yet to decide whether to support a coalition government led by the NC.
"The JSP-N is divided on the issue. We hope that the JSP-N will support us in forming the government by the Thursday deadline," NC Joint General Secretary Prakash Sharan Mahat told reporters after the meeting on Tuesday.
He said Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' who leads the CPN-MC had assured the party his support in formation of the next coalition government led by the NC.
If the JSP-N does not support the NC, the party hopes to influence 28 lawmakers of the UML's Nepal-Khanal faction to resign en masse.
In that case, the House will be reduced to 243 members, and the NC and the CPN-MC will be able to form a coalition government with the help of 15 JSP-N lawmakers owing allegiance to Upendra Yadav and Baburam Bhattarai.
Mahato, however, has warned Yadav against trying to split the party. He threatened him with disciplinary action if he unilaterally backed the NC in its bid to form the new government, the report said.
He said the JSP-N should focus on getting its political demands addressed rather than assisting efforts to form the next government.
"Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli-led government has addressed some of our demands and Oli has made efforts to address the remaining issues. We have to wait and watch," he said.
Thakur said the results of his party's talks with the Oli-led government on the party's demands were moving ahead positively.
After Oli lost the trust vote, the NC, the CPN -MC and the faction of the JSP led by Yadav urged President Bhandari to invoke Article 76 (2) of the Constitution to pave the way for the formation of a new government.
It says in cases where no party has a clear majority in the House, the President shall appoint as the prime minister a member of the House who can command the majority with the support of two or more parties in the House of Representatives.
If the House fails to form a government as per Article 76 (2) or a prime minister appointed under this provision fails to win the vote of confidence within 30 days from the appointment, the President shall invoke Article 76 (3), the Kathmandu Post reported. In that case, Oli is likely to stake a claim to the government once again, the report said.
Oli currently is the leader of a party that has the highest number of members in the House. If Oli is appointed under the Constitution, he also needs to win the vote of confidence within 30 days from the date of the appointment.
Nepal plunged into a political crisis on December 20 last year after President Bhandari dissolved the House and announced fresh elections on April 30 and May 10 at the recommendation of Prime Minister Oli, amidst a tussle for power within the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP).
Oli's move to dissolve the House sparked protests from a large section of the NCP led by his rival 'Prachanda'.
In February, the apex court reinstated the dissolved House, in a setback to Oli who was preparing for snap polls.
Known for his pro-China stance, Oli had earlier served as the country's prime minister from October 11, 2015 to August 3, 2016 during which Kathmandu's ties with New Delhi had strained.
Oli said in Parliament on Monday that it was 'unfortunate' that a government that "tirelessly worked for the country's development and nation-building" was being "targeted for narrow and partisan interests".
Prominent leaders, including Deuba and 'Prachanda', blamed Oli for his failure to tackle the surge in COVID-19 cases over the last few weeks. They said "corruption and scandals" had blocked the supply of timely delivery of vaccines from India.