Tuesday, 23 July, 2024

NC's New Initiative JSP In Decisive Position

Narayan Upadhyay


After the Nepali Congress (NC) took the initiative to form a government under its leadership seeking the Prime Minister’s resignation, the country's politics is expected to take a new turn. Remaining sluggish initially, the main opposition's new efforts have encouraged the Maoist Centre to proceed ahead to dislodge the KP Sharma Oli-led government and create their own.
Forming the new government, however, is easier said than done, given the existing numerical position of the parties in the House of Representatives (HoR). Also, the developing situation has catapulted the Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP), the fourth largest party in the House of Representatives, into a decisive position. The JSP's support is crucial for the parties that are gunning for ousting the current government.
The NC, however, knows well that its efforts would not yield desired results without mustering support from all parliamentarians of the two parties-- the Maoist Centre and the JSP. Though the Maoist-Centre is likely to side with the Congress, the latter will have to wait whether the JSP faction would do the same. Two key JSP leaders, Mahantha Thakur and Rajendra Mahato, have kept them in a long wait regarding whether they would back them to change the present government and form the new one under the NC’s leadership.

Arduous task
In the meantime, it is apparent that no parties-- neither the Congress nor the Maoist-Centre-- would file a no-confidence motion against the government unless the JSP backed them up. Elbowing Oli out of the PM's chair at present is an arduous task for his opponents. The PM's bitter critic and arch-rival, Prachanda, has not yet withdrawn his party's support to and register a no-confidence motion against the PM in the HoR. Had he enjoyed support from required parliamentarians, he would have gone on an all-out offensive to oust the Oli's UML-led government. Even if he pulls out his party's support, the government will get at least 30 days to prove its majority in the parliament. The reprieve means the Oli government would get time to explore all alternatives to win a majority to survive.
Oli and his backers are sanguine to receive backing from half the parliamentarians belonging to the JSP, which has currently 32 legislators. The support from half of the JSP members would maintain the hold of the 122-member Oli's party in the government.
Meanwhile, even if the NC and the Maoist-Centre join hands in their attempt to unseat the Oli government, they could not bring their government on their own. The two parties would still require support from all the JSP legislators. NC senior leaders Ram Chandra Paudel and Maoist-Centre chair Prachanda, thus, are engaged in dialogues with JSP's Thakur and Mahato to receive their backing.
Thakur's recent statement that his party too yearned to lead the new government has made the matter worse for the NC and Prachanda. Also, they have clarified that they would decide on which side they should throw their weight on only after a no-confidence motion was registered.
The two opposition parties face another dilemma. Constitutionally, in case the Congress and the Maoist-Centre fail to demonstrate their majority after pulling out support to the government, the Oli--led UML, being the single largest party in the parliament, would be asked to form the next government. If it happens, no party can censure the government for the remaining one and a half years. By that time, the term of the present parliament would come to an end, paving the way for the next general elections. Prime Minister Oli has repeatedly stated that new elections would settle all present political strife and turbulence.
If such a situation arises, the opposition parties do fear that the Oli government would oversee the general elections, downsizing their chance to win the required majority in the polls. The Maoist-Centre is, therefore, apprehensive that if it goes on an offensive by withdrawing its support to the government, this may actually allow Oli to stay for the remaining term. This may be the reason that saw Oli challenging the Maoist-Centre and his other adversaries to show their guts to withdraw support to his government.
While marshaling support from the Oli's opponents, the main opposition seeks to keep any future unity among the communist forces at bay. NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba often speaks his deep-seated concerns that the squabbling communists could unite anytime whenever they see a chance to gain an upper hand in the polls. His concerns have substantive elements in them. Some three years ago, two bitter rivals-- the UML and Maoist-Centre-- had joined hands to contest the general elections, which saw them winning a nearly two-thirds majority in the parliament and six out of seven newly carved provinces.
The ongoing political situation reveals that any tremour in the Oli government may witness turmoil in some political parties, too. The JSP in all its likelihood may divide on extending its support to the Oli's government. Currently, the two factions in the JSP, each led by Thakur-Mahato and Baburam Bhattarai-Upendra Yadav groups, are contending over the same issue. Bhattarai and Yadav are of the view that no leaders of the JSP should back Oli while Thakur and Mahato are holding dialogues with the government to offer their support for fat ministerial positions in return.
Similarly, the partisan bickering in the UML is at its boiling point now and the faction led by Jhalnath Khanal and Madhav Kumar Nepal has created parallel bodies in the party throughout the country. This has driven the ruling UML towards a formal split. At this stage, the Khanal-Nepal faction may not come forward wholeheartedly to show loyalty to the Oli government when the latter faces censure motion. This is because the weaker Oli-led government brings smiles to the faces of Khanal-Nepal led leaders. It is understandable that the Khanal-Nepal side, compelled to stay in the UML following a Supreme Court verdict that revived the two unified parties- the UML and Maoist-Centre, might either create their party or forge unity with the Prachanda's party to set up the largest communist party.

Underlying desire
The main opposition has an underlying desire to see the communist parties contesting elections without forging unity or poll alliance. Any poll alliance among the communists will relegate the NC and other parties to the second or lesser positions. Whenever the communists take part in the polls as adversaries, it is the NC that always emerges triumphant.
Taking a glimpse of the current national politics, it is not easy for the opposition parties to dislodge the PM due mainly to the numerical position of all parties in the HoR. The Prime Minister understands this better. Hence, he throws gauntlets to his rivals to replace his government now and then.

(Upadhyay is Deputy Executive Editor of The Rising Nepal. nara.upadhyay@gmail.com)