Bumpy Road Ahead For New Alliance

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The creation of new five-party alliance mainly of the left forces has surprised all. Nepali Congress (NC), the largest ally in previous alliance, was taken off guard. Instead of analysing and solving its growing contradictions with the CPN-Maoist Centre that now heads the five-party coalition government, the NC is just accusing the former of betraying it. The dismantling of NC-Maoist Centre alliance is a big achievement for the CPN-UML. Its chairman KP Sharma Oli is beaming with pleasure at breaking the NC-Maoist partnership and claiming its credit. 

Nepal’s internal politics and geopolitics have been intertwined. Regional and global powers keep an eye on the political developments of the Himalayan nation located in a geostrategic place. A few detractors have argued that external factors are behind the change of the alliance. There has been a tendency to see the hands of foreign elements in the making and breaking of every government. This line of opinion undermines the role of domestic actors that are always projected as subservient to foreign power blocks. Dismissing such argument, Oli said, “China and America should not come to execute the task of this extent.” By ‘task,’ he meant the breaking of NC-Maoist Centre alliance and formation of the incumbent one.

Mission 

As the insiders say, Maoist Centre chairman and Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda and Oli had themselves surreptitiously initiated the talks for forging alliance between the two left parties for the last five months. They succeeded to avoid the gaze of media while keeping the NC clueless. During his party's 'Mission 84' campaign, Oli had seen  his party's waning support base after it was vertically split some years back. The drive sought to mobilise the cadres but they showed little enthusiasm and it was a challenge to energise the party without being a part of government. So, smashing the previous alliance was a ‘must do’ mission for him.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Prachanda was frustrated by uncooperative behaviour of the NC. Briefing the party’s Standing Committee meeting on Friday, Prachanda said that he was forced to change the coalition after the NC denied extending support for conducting the government smoothly and the UML lent a hand for co-work by realising its past acts. He wanted to ‘change the gear’ of government by reshuffling the Cabinet. But NC president Sher Bahadur Deuba did not give his nod to remove a minister grilled by the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA). Moreover, as media reports cited, he did not go well with former finance minister Dr. Prakash Sharan Mahat, who had rejected PM’s proposal to form a high level committee to solve the economic crisis. Dr. Mahat also shelved a proposal to provide monetary assistance to the former ‘unqualified’ Maoist militia, citing the shortage of budget. 

At one point, Deuba told Prachanda, “If you want to get any work done by Dr. Mahat, tell me.” It is reported that finance and foreign ministries under NC had shown geopolitical bias towards non-Western nations. Dr. Mahat was reluctant to accept even the Chinese grants while approving the loans and aid from other nations and multilateral agencies. Similarly, the concerned ministry had ignored Russia’s 13 proposed cooperation projects related to health, education, aviation, electric railways and highways. Chinese and Russian projects have the potential to make Nepal's economy self-reliant through creation of jobs and income generation. Failure to maintain a balanced foreign policy shrinks the country's manoeuvring space in handling international relations and mustering global support.

Just before taking a solid shape, a sense of mistrust has begun to cast a pall over the endurance of the new alliance despite Prachanda's claim that it will last till the upcoming polls. The day when the PM secured a vote of confidence in the House of Representatives (HoR), the crucial meeting saw the exchange of mutual brickbats and accusations between the ruling and opposition parties. NC lawmaker Bishwo Prakash Sharma posed a question, "What would be the consequences if the parties, deceived by the Maoist Centre, join hands to form another government?" So was the query of CPN-Unified Socialist deputy leader Rajendra Pandey. "What would be the predicament of PM, should Oli and Deuba come together?" asked Pandey, whose party is also in the government. Undeterred by such criticisms, PM Prachanda challenged them to constitute the government and said his party was ready to sit in the opposition. 

Opposition's posture  

Enraged by its ouster from the government, the NC started to disrupt the House proceedings as the new government got down to business. The NC has demanded the resignation of Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane over his alleged involvement in the misappropriation of cooperatives' funds. Unified Socialist's ire is understandable. Its chair Madhav Kumar Nepal was supposed to be prime minister after Prachanda as per their deal. As the Unified Socialist has become an important component of the new alliance, it has upped the ante in power sharing, demanding the premiership on a rotational basis. It is believed that Prachanda and Oli have given oral assurance to Nepal to take the helm after Prachanda. Oli had also held a secret meeting with Nepal to bring the latter on board. 

Given the participation of parties with different hues and shapes in the coalition, it is a herculean task to run the government for remaining full tenure. The largest party - NC - that has swapped the seat is dead-set to upset the apple cart on government's plans and actions. Nepal is in a dire need of stability, good governance, effective service delivery and inclusive development at a time when it is rocked by a series of corruption cases. The allies in the government should carefully tread a consensus path by embracing the constitutional conduct so that they can develop coalition culture essential to translate their common agenda into action.

(The author is Deputy Executive editor of this daily.)

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