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Will NC and UML form a new alliance?

Will NC and UML form a new alliance?

Over a month has passed since Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal dissolved his alliance with the Nepali Congress (NC) to form a new coalition with the CPN-UML and other parties, including the Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP).

Dahal’s rationale for the shift in political alliance was his belief that the Congress ministers hindered his work, necessitating a fresh start for the government. However, there’s been little improvement in Dahal’s approach. He continues to repeat past mistakes, such as frequently transferring government secretaries and prioritizing ceremonial functions over office duties.

Meanwhile, the NC, as the main opposition, has been vocal about addressing pressing issues such as investigating Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane for his alleged involvement in the misappropriation of financial cooperative deposits. 

The Dahal government has also failed to address other key issues such as amending more than one dozen laws targeting the upcoming investment summit, improving the country’s economy and stopping mass exodus of youths to foreign countries.

Despite the UML showing considerable support for the Dahal government, internal dissatisfaction is growing regarding its performance. The UML leadership, led by KP Sharma Oli, has refrained from criticizing the government publicly but is privately concerned.

What will UML do if the Dahal government cannot deliver on his promises and goes on to become even more unpopular? The UML leaders do not have a definite answer to it. One glue that is likely to keep the Maoist-UML together is the dream of reviving the left unity. While Prime Minister Dahal says the Maoist and UML could ultimately form a left unity, UML leaders do not seem so optimistic. They view the coalition primarily as a ruling alliance, not a true leftist collaboration.

However, second-rung leaders from the Maoists and UML say that in the face of emergence of new political parties and growing public frustration, formation of left unity is imperative for the survival of both parties. Furthermore, they say the NC’s commitment to the 2015 constitution, particularly on secularism, is wavering and that left parties should come together to protect those achievements.  

“This was also one of the reasons that led Prime Minister Dahal to break alliance because the Nepali Congress was planning to make a proposal of referendum to decide on secularism,” said on Maoist leader. He added though the parties are under pressure to reconsider secularism, at least the Maoists and UML are unlikely to agree on it.

While these agenda are likely to keep the two parties together, it is still a difficult task because there are many differences among the communist parties. The first one is obviously a power-sharing among the key leaders of communist parties such as Maoist, UML and CPN (Unified Socialist). As per the informal agreement, Prime Minister Dahal will hand over the government leadership to Oli; and it is uncertain whether CPN-UML (Unified Socialist) Chairman Madhav Kumar Nepal will lead the government.

Amid all this, the potential for collaboration between NC and UML is gaining traction. Prominent NC figures, including Dr Shekhar Koirala, Gagan Thapa, and Bishwa Prakash Sharma, have signaled openness to cooperation with the UML to address public concerns and foster political stability. 

Even Sher Bahadur Deuba, NC’s president, has expressed willingness to engage with the UML, reflecting a growing consensus within the NC on the necessity of cooperation. His regret over past decisions reflects a growing consensus within the NC that cooperation with the UML is essential for addressing the public’s disenchantment and fostering a more stable political environment. 

NC leader Koirala, who leads the anti-establishment faction of NC, is at the forefront of leaders advocating for NC-UML cooperation. Of late, he has increased the frequency of meetings with UML leaders. Talking to reporters at Biratnagar Airport last week, he said that the NC and UML need to unite to bring stability and development to the country.

He said the new UML-Maoist Center coalition can neither deliver economic development nor provide political stability. “The new constitution could only be drafted when the NC and UML came together. There is no alternative to these two parties uniting for the country’s development,” he said. “It has become clear that there won’t be stability in provincial governments. If we want to bring stability and development to the country, NC and UML must come together.” 

The UML, too, appears receptive to collaboration. Oli, during the previous presidential election, hinted at the possibility of political shifts, indicating a willingness to adapt. 

If there is an agreement, UML Chairman Oli is likely to lead the government in the first phase and hand over the power to NC President Deuba to hold the elections in 2027. 

Interestingly, PM Dahal and Oli have differences over the nature of the new alliance. While Dahal insists that the long-term plan is to achieve left unity through this coalition, Oli is not willing to accept this alliance as a coalition yet. 

“What we have created is essentially a power equation. We all have different plans and election manifesto,” Oli said, addressing the Kaski District Convention of UML in Pokhara a few days ago. It clearly shows that both Oli and Dahal do not have a concrete plan for a long-term cooperation.