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Nepal coalition rift: Maoist, Congress vie for National Assembly chairmanship

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Kathmandu | March 1, 2024 5:55:31 AM IST
The widening distance between the Maoist Centre and the Nepali Congress, two big parties in Nepal, over the claim for chairmanship of the National Assembly has threatened the already fragile ruling coalition.

The Maoist Centre, upon concluding its Standing Committee meeting on Wednesday, decided to contest for the chairmanship of the National Assembly. Earlier, the Chairman of the Maoist Centre and incumbent Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal had assured the Nepali Congress (NC) that it would support Congress during the election for Chairman of the Upper House or the National Assembly.

"Our comrades suggested that the party field its own candidate for the post (Chairman of the National Ass0embly) in the Standing Committee meeting, and this has been decided accordingly," Agni Prasad Sapkota, the spokesperson of the Maoist Centre, said on Wednesday. The candidates, however, are yet to be ascertained by the party.

A day later, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, upon landing at Bharatpur in Chitwan district, also reiterated the claim, stating developments have taken a new turn.

"The majority of our standing committee has voted to field a candidate from the party for the post of Chairman of the National Assembly. Though no written decision has been made over the demands made within the party, the developments have taken a new turn since the time when we (Maoist Centre and Nepali Congress) made the agreement. I indeed had said that we were positive if Krishna Situala would be fielded for the post (NA Chairman)," Dahal told the media after landing in Bharatpur.

The latest development in the coalition comes after the "Maha Samiti" meeting of the Nepali Congress, the largest party in the Nepali parliament. During the party meeting held on February 19, the voice against the coalition at the time of the election scored high and they decided to contest the next election slated for 2026 without forging an alliance. The proposal was presented by Nepali Congress General Secretary Gagan Thapa.

Likewise, the Vice President of the Nepali Congress and the Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister of the incumbent government, Purna Bahadur Khadka,''s presentation against secularism and disagreement over the term "Jana Yuddha," or people''s war, Maoist Centre, the former guerilla group who fought the decade-long insurgency, has been highlighting it as their achievement.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Dahal, while making his statement at Bharatpur, mentioned these reasons, hinting at the development taking a different turn.

Dahal also alleged the loss of a national assembly seat in Koshi Province because of the Nepali Congress and claimed cadres were upset with it, forcing him to change the course of politics.

"Maoist candidates lost a seat in Koshi because of (Nepali) Congress, which has indeed upset our leaders and cadres there. The latest round of the Maha Samiti meeting''s decision is also something that wasn''t required. The coalition was going well and we were committed to it, but now that their decision to discontinue the coalition in the next election has been made, is it important to say now? It indeed would bring on waves," Dahal said.

Further continuing, Dahal said, "Discussion about secularism and Jana Yuddha, which was made, wasn''t really the need of time, it indeed has raised speculation and questions."

On Wednesday, the Maoist Centre also decided to contest the run-off election of Illam-2 without other parties'' support.

The latest statement from PM Dahal, along with the decision from his party Standing Committee, comes ahead of the election for National Assembly Chairman, which is scheduled for March 12. Candidature filing for the post has been slated for March 7.

The Maoist Centre emerged as the largest party in the National Assembly after last month''s election and the chair of the National Assembly is also a member of the Constitutional Council, which recommends office bearers for constitutional bodies.

The Maoist Centre currently has 17, Nepali Congress 16, Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) 19, CPN (Unified Socialist), 8, Janata Samajbadi Party 3 and Rastriya Janamorcha and Loktantrik Samajbadi Party have one seat each in the National Assembly.

A total of 58 seats were contested in the National Assembly election held in January, while one seat still remains vacant, which will be appointed by President Ram Chandra Paudel on the recommendation of the Cabinet.

Former Prime Minister and President of the Nepali Congress, Sher Bahadur Deuba, held a meeting with party general secretaries on Thursday evening about the election for National Assembly Chairman.

"Discussion has been held with the party president about the National Assembly. It wouldn''t be the cause of the downfall of the coalition. The loss of the Maoist Center candidate in Koshi indeed is something to reflect on; it is obvious that such results would increase the dissatisfaction within the coalition but it''s not the end," Bishwa Prakash Sharma, General Secretary of Nepali Congress, said on Thursday evening. (ANI)

 
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