President Bidhya Devi Bhandari on Sunday appointed Pushpa Kamal Dahal, leader of the parliamentary party of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), as the next Prime Minister of Nepal. According to a communication from the President’s Office in Sital Nivas, the swearing-in ceremony for Mr. Dahal, better known as ‘Prachanda’, will be held at 4 p.m. on Monday. The development came after seven parties and three independent MPs led by former Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli of the Communist Party of Nepal (UML) wrote a letter to the President proposing the name of Mr. Dahal as the prime ministerial candidate for the Left-dominant coalition.
Mr. Dahal and his CPN (Maoist Centre) have the support of 169 elected members in the lower house Pratinidhi Sabha representing Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), the Rashtriya Swatantra Party (RSP) led by Ravi Lamichhane, pro-monarchy Rashtriya Prajatantra Party, Nagarik Unmukti Party, Janata Samajwadi Party of Madhesi leader Upendra Yadav and the Janamat Party of former secessionist leader C.K. Raut.
This will be the third time that the former Maoist rebel leader will be the Prime Minister of the Himalayan nation. He served in 2008-2009 when he had to step down because of a political crisis over power sharing. His second stint came in 2016 when he took over from Mr. Oli in the backdrop of the economic blockade of Nepal during 2015-16 by the Madhesi agitators.
Earlier, Mr. Dahal had broken away from the Nepali Congress-led ruling coalition which had governed Nepal since its leader Sher Bahadur Deuba was appointed Prime Minister in a Supreme Court-initiated move in July 2021.
Sunday’s developments have put an end to weeks of negotiation that began after the general election of November failed to produce a clear winner though the Nepali Congress emerged as the single largest party. The election, however, was difficult as several ministers in the Deuba Cabinet lost their seats and a number of smaller parties such as the RSP and Nagarik Unmukti Party emerged as new political players. It was understood that the smaller parties would play a crucial role in helping either of the two big blocs led by Mr. Deuba and Mr. Oli to form the next government. In the last few days, a crisis emerged in the Nepali Congress which witnessed rise of a new centre of power with party leader Gagan Thapa asserting his role. Mr. Oli’s coalition had given the impression that it had fallen apart but surprised the political landscape by emerging with a new coalition with Mr. Dahal as the prime ministerial candidate.
Among the surprises on Sunday was the decision by the newly formed RSP, led by former TV anchor Mr. Lamicchane, whose campaign pitch for a “clean, anti-establishment” party had led some to assume that the RSP would remain in the opposition for now.
“The RSP got the votes by promising to get things done: improving rule of law, reducing corruption, improving government services, providing access to high quality healthcare and education to all, creating jobs, etc.,” RSP Central Committee member Arnico Panday told The Hindu, when asked about the turnaround. “We cannot achieve those by sitting in the opposition. We have been talking to all parties to find the best way to move forward on our agenda. The new coalition provided us with the best opportunity”
The RSP, that has 20 seats combined from the general election and the proportional representation (PR) categories, is now the fourth largest party in the 275-member Pratinidhi Sabha, and will tip the balance in favour of the ‘Prachanda’-led coalition. New Delhi will watch the development closely, said officials, given that the RSP has criticised India for building an embankment along the Mahakali river at Dharchula, that has led to protests by Nepalis on the other side.