Coalition Government To Endure

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Despite widespread speculation that the current government is facing a survival crisis, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda has categorically dismissed such speculations. While addressing Maoist Centre cadres, the Prime Minister said that his coalition government would not fall and that if everything goes as planned, he would remain in power until 2027. He said that his removal is a tough task, despite several attempts to depose him since he took office some 18 months ago.

He maintained that the number of MPs representing his party would enable him and his party to stay in power and that, because of this 'magical number,' opponents would find it impossible to remove him and his party from office. Though many attempted to mislead party workers regarding the government’s survival, the magical number, he claimed, enabled him to carry out several things, consolidating his status as the government's head. The Prime Minister, who is also the Maoist Centre chair, appears confident that his party's current total of 32 lawmakers has helped maintain his position as kingmaker and compelled the UML, with 78 lawmakers, to play second fiddle in the government.

Confidence

Because of this status, he gained the confidence of the two major parties in the lower house of parliament — the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML — to allow him to serve as the government's head several times since the November 2022 elections. This time around, he enjoys substantial support from Rabi Lamichhane's Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP), as well as the UML and many fringe parties. Besides the 22 members of the RSP, fringe parties such as the Nagarik Unmukti Party (4), Janamat Party (66), and the Ashok Rai-led Janata Samajbadi Party Nepal (5) have lent support for the Prachanda-led government, which sheds light on Prachanda’s ingenuity.

Interestingly, PM Prachanda used his political acumen to stay in power. After perceiving that his former partner, Upendra Yadav's Janata Samajbadi Party, may jeopardise his government's existence, he and the UML chair engineered the split of Yadav’s party and assisted Ashok Rai in creating another party, which they immediately included as a coalition partner in place of Yadav's JSP. The two leaders also warned the CPN-Unified Socialist that if they hatched any plot against the current government, the party would meet the fate of Yadav’s JSP.

Prachanda seems to have evolved into a politician with a talent for forging and breaking coalitions and utilising such situations. Following the breakup in the then-NCP, he forged his partnership with the Nepali Congress, helping its NC president become Prime Minister. He then campaigned in the 2022 elections, creating an electoral alliance with the Congress that resulted in 32 seats for his party and 90 for the Congress in parliament's 245-member lower chamber.

However, following disagreements with the Congress over the formation of the government under his premiership, he promptly departed the Congress-led coalition and formed a partnership with the UML after the November 2022 elections. However, after a few months, he was quick to give up his party's partnership with the UML, make an alliance with the Congress, and form a new government led by him. His partnership with the Congress lasted just about a year before he abandoned the largest party in parliament to form another coalition government with the UML. He remained in power by changing alliances, a role that many observers believe only Prachanda could play in Nepal's complicated political landscape. Prachanda was successful in gaining a parliamentary vote of confidence for the third time in just over one and a half years, following the formation of a Maoist-UML-led coalition government in March of this year. 

Despite his ability to form coalitions with parties with opposing ideologies, the Prime Minister occasionally expresses concern about the coalition government's effectiveness. He recently said that several ministers in the current cabinet do not heed his advice or directions. He is unhappy with the performance of several ministers. Meanwhile, he has expressed worries about key aspects of the federal budget for 2024–25. In response to numerous legislators' complaints over the budget, he said that he was dissatisfied that projects and activities worth less than 30 million rupees were not provided to the provincial government.

Budget concerns 

Many people argue that the UML had an advantage in budget distribution choices. Concerns and criticisms about budget allocations for development projects may pose a challenge to the administration. While sharing ambassador positions, the UML received more of them. According to some experts, PM Prachanda's assurance to his party members stems from a persistent worry that his government would collapse at any time since the major opposition, the Nepali Congress, has consistently tried to form a new coalition. 

Furthermore, if the Supreme Court rules against Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Lamichhane, who is now facing a legal fight for his suspected cooperative fraud case, his governing coalition may collapse. However, until the major parties in his coalition government, the UML decide to resign, he will remain in charge of the government. It is also true that, according to the gentleman's agreement reached between him and Oli, Prachanda should step down as PM for the sake of the UML chair. His handling of the situation, which calls for a change of guard in the government, will certainly offer an interesting political spectacle.

(Upadhyay is a former managing editor of this daily.)

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