UML pulls plug on government, recalls its ministers from Cabinet

July 4, 2024 5:30 am

By Anil Giri

Kathmandu: The CPN-UML, the largest party in the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government until Wednesday, has withdrawn its support following Monday midnight’s political deal with the Nepali Congress.

The UML’s move has rendered the Dahal government in a minority and relegated it to a caretaker one.

When Dahal sought a vote of confidence on May 20 after the Janata Samajbadi Party-Nepal withdrew its support, he had received 157 votes in the 275-member House of Representatives.

The UML’s withdrawal of support has reduced 77 votes.

Now the prime minister must secure a vote of confidence from Parliament within 30 days to stay in power, but given the current political equation, winning the trust vote is unlikely.

“This government was formed to achieve some special objectives like creating jobs and addressing public frustration,” said Padam Giri, minister for law, justice and parliamentary affairs, after submitting the letter of support withdrawal. “But looking back at those four months, we have not achieved the progress we desired.”

CPN-UML chair and parliamentary party leader KP Sharma Oli signed the letter, which states that the party decided to withdraw its support to the Dahal government to bring political stability through a national consensus government. The UML had joined the Dahal government on March 4.

The party also recalled its ministers from the government.

“The frustration of the people remains the same, the unemployment situation hasn’t changed, and the economic situation hasn’t improved. The UML was not consulted while formulating the government’s policies and programmes and before presenting the national budget,” said Giri.

After submitting the letter to Prime Minister Dahal, Giri also accused him of failing to realise that he was leading a coalition government.

Receiving the letter, Dahal did not speak much, but recalled a Nepali song by the late singer Phatteman: “yesto pani hundo raichha jindagi ma kahile, kahile” (This is how life unfolds sometimes).

“We worked together with great spirit but this time, things turned out like this. But we should work together in the future,” Dahal said.

Now the only parties supporting the Dahal government are the Rastriya Swatantra Party, which has four ministers, and Ashok Rai’s Janata Samajwadi Party with its two ministers.

On the other hand, the two largest parties—the Nepali Congress and the UML—have been urging Dahal to quit immediately and waste no time on a vote of confidence that he is almost certain to lose. After the withdrawal of support by a ruling party, as per the constitutional provision, the prime minister can go for a floor test.

“But in the Dahal case, even if he goes for a floor test, he cannot secure a majority,” a UML leader said, adding, “So we have advised him to quit.”

But a CPN (Maoist Centre) leader said that once the budget is endorsed by the upper house, the prime minister will make his decision. The upper house is likely to pass the budget on Thursday.

“We will sit on Thursday,” Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Narayan Kaji Shrestha said, adding, “We will decide whether to resign or face a floor test.”

Several Maoist leaders have also advised Dahal to resign so that his exit will be seen as graceful. But another ruling party, the Rastriya Swatantra Party has decided to remain in government until the prime minister is removed.

Prime Minister Dahal, however, has expressed reluctance to resign immediately. The office-bearers’ meeting of the CPN (Maoist Centre) held in Baluwatar on Tuesday morning decided that the prime minister should not tender his resignation but instead face a vote of trust in Parliament.

As per the Congress-UML understanding to form a new government under Article 76 (2) of the constitution, the UML also asked the prime minister to resign by Wednesday evening.

Raghubir Mahaseth led the UML team in the government as deputy prime minister and minister for physical infrastructure and transport.

Likewise, Rajendra Rai was the minister for water supply; Bhagawati Chaudhary was the minister for women, children and senior citizens; Damodar Bhandari was the minister for industry commerce and supplies; and Jwala Kumari Sah was the minister for agriculture and livestock development. Similarly, Hari Uprety and Balaram Adhikari were minister for defence and minister for land management and cooperatives, respectively, and Padam Giri was minister for law, justice and parliamentary Affairs.

On Monday midnight, Nepali Congress chief Sher Bahadur Deuba and UML chair Oli also agreed to form a high-powered constitution review committee to suggest amendments, bypassing key ruling partners like the Maoist Centre and the Rastriya Swatantra Party.

As per the understanding, Oli will lead a new ‘national consensus’ government for a year and a half. For the remaining term of Parliament, Deuba will be the prime minister. Both parties have also tentatively reached a power-sharing deal, including the division of ministerial portfolios, amendments to the constitution, review of the electoral system, including proportional representation, change of national assembly arrangements, and the size of provincial assemblies.

As per the draft understanding, the Congress will lead 10 ministries, including home, and the UML nine, including finance. Likewise, the Congress and the UML will lead three provincial governments each, with the government in Madhesh to be led by a regional party.

Meanwhile, the Congress on Wednesday formally endorsed the agreement reached with the UML on the formation of a new coalition.

A Central Work Execution Committee meeting of the party held at Deuba’s residence in Budhanilkantha endorsed the deal, according to Congress spokesperson Prakash Sharan Mahat.

“The meeting also endorsed the agreement that states Oli would lead the government at first and Deuba would lead the election government in the second phase,” said Mahat.

The meeting also urged Prime Minister Dahal to step down and pave the way for the formation of a ‘national consensus government’.

“The meeting concludes that it would be appropriate for the prime minister to pave the way for the formation of a new national consensus government as, following the agreement between Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML, a clear majority in the House of Representatives is in favour of forming the government under the leadership of KP Sharma Oli,” reads a statement issued after the meeting.

“The meeting expresses its commitment to implementing the agreement reached between the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML regarding leading governments on a rotation basis to protect national interests, control corruption, ensure good governance, the development, maintain political stability, amending the constitution to strengthen the federal democratic republican system and inclusiveness and to strengthen the economy.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the UML had formally requested Prime Minister Dahal to tender his resignation by Wednesday evening.

The UML meeting further urged all political parties to help bring political stability by participating in the ‘national consensus’ government under the leadership of Oli.

Anil Giri is a reporter covering diplomacy, international relations and national politics for The Kathmandu Post. Giri has been working as a journalist for a decade-and-a-half, contributing to numerous national and international media outlets.

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