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Nepali Congress to join government next week as Prachanda, Deuba seek to bolster eight-party alliance

Nepal’s Prime Minister Prachanda (Right) and former PM Deuba (Left) are back as allies

KATHMANDU: The Nepali Congress, largest party in Nepal’s parliament, is all set to join the Prachanda-led coalition government next week, according to party leaders.

Prakash Sharan Mahat, spokesperson for the Congress party, said that an informal dialogue is taking place between Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda and Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba regarding the restructuring of current government.

“Our party will be part of the government once vice presidential elections held later this week,” Mahat, a leader close to President Deuba, told India Narrative on Wednesday. Mahat, who has been tipped as the next finance minister, said that the allocation of ministerial portfolios to the Congress party will be finalised according to an understanding between the partners in the eight-party alliance.

According to media reports, the Congress party will get several ministerial portfolios including the finance ministry and foreign ministry which were held by KP Sharma Oli’s CPN (UML) from December 2022 to late February 2023 when the party was backing Prime Minister Prachanda.

Those ministerial portfolios have fallen vacant for the past three weeks after the UML recalled its ministers and withdrew its support to the government in response to Prime Minister Prachanda ditched UML’s Oli by lending support to the Nepali Congress candidate in the presidential elections.

A source close to Congress President Deuba said that Congress will join the government once vice presidential polls are held on March 17.

“There will be no change of guard in the new political scenario. Prachanda will remain as the prime minister while the Congress will be a major ally of the government. Other parties including Madhesis will keep supporting the government and be part of it,” the source said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prachanda is preparing to take a vote of confidence soon, according to Haribol Gajurel, a political advisor to the prime minister. “Prime Minister will undergo floor test soon, especially in the context that the UML has withdrawn support from the government,” Gajurel, also a Maoist leader, told India Narrative. He said that the cabinet will be reshuffled once vice presidential polls are held.

This will be yet another reshuffle in the cabinet headed by Prachanda who rose to power in late December with the support of seven parties comprising CPN-UML, CPN (Maoist Centre), Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP), Rastriya Prajantra Party (RPP), Janata Samajbadi Party, Janamat Party and Nagarik Unmukti Party. The Congress party stayed in opposition while the UML backed the government.

After UML, RSP and RPP’s pullout from the government, Prachanda is now reshuffling his cabinet with the backing of the Congress party.

Amid twists and turns in political events, the seven-party alliance collapsed paving the way for the Congress party to join the government.

In the changed context, eight parties comprising the CPN (Maoist Centre), the Nepali Congress, CPN (Unified Socialist) Janata Samajbadi Party, Janamat Party, Nagarik Unmukti Party, Loktantrik Samjbadi Party and Rastriya Janamorcha will form a new ruling alliance.

A common candidate of the eight-party alliance, Ram Chandra Paudel, a veteran leader of the Congress party, won presidential elections last week.

This eight-party new alliance will be an extension to the five-party ruling alliance which existed since mid-July 2021 after the ouster of the then PM Oli.

The five-party ruling alliance had come into existence in retaliation to Oli’s move of dissolving parliament twice in December 2020 and in May 20201.

(Santosh Ghimire is India Narrative’s Nepal Correspondent based in Kathmandu)

Also Read: Nepal’s ruling alliance breaks down as Oli’s CPN-UML quits government