Champa Devi Karki of CPN (Maoist Center) was almost sure to win the National Assembly election as one of the ruling coalition candidates from Koshi province. But she lost the Jan 25 vote to CPN-UML candidate Rukmini Koirala.
Maoist leaders now claim that Karki lost because of the betrayal of trust by the Nepali Congress. They say although the Maoist party voted for NC candidate Krishna Prasad Sitaula, there was a significant crossing of the floor by the NC voters.
Though the Maoists emerged as the largest party in the NA after the election held to select 19 upper house members, the party is unhappy with the poll outcome from Koshi.
It is said that NC senior leader Shekhar Koirala, who is earnestly working to break the Maoist-Congress alliance, influenced the voting pattern of the NC. Earlier, the Koirala faction had switched to the UML to elect Kedar Bahadur Karki as chief minister after NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba fielded his candidate. It was later revealed that there was a secret understanding between Koirala and Deuba in the appointment of chief minister, which miffed the Maoist party.
That was the first instance which sowed the seed of discord inside the ruling coalition. The latest election betrayal in Koshi province has deepened the mistrust between the Maoists and NC.
"We have reached a point where we have to seriously review our alliance with the Nepali Congress,” says Maoist leader Barsha Man Pun. “In every election, we have been voting for NC candidates, and in return, we are being betrayed. The Koshi province election has forced us to think whether the current coalition is beneficial for us.”
What happened in Koshi province is not the only reason why the Maoist and NC are growing apart. It began with the arrest of senior NC leader and former home minister Bal Krishna Khand in the fake Bhutanese refugee scandal.
Many NC leaders suspect that Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal of the Maoist Center is weaponing corruption scandals against the NC leaders while overlooking the misdeeds of the leaders within his own party.
NC senior leader Koirala has always been vocal about changing the current coalition and forging an alliance with the UML. Of late, more and more leaders are joining the chorus. They want to remove Dahal from power because they feel that his government has not been good to the NC. Even though the Maoist Center has only 32 seats in the House of Representatives, making it the third largest party, NC leaders believe the Maoist party is becoming overbearing in the government affairs — even bullying the NC and UML by opening investigation into past corruption scandals involving their leaders.
Meanwhile, the Maoist leaders claim it is the NC that has been dictating the government’s decision-making process including in the foreign policy realm. A senior Maoist leader says the NC has tied the hands of Prime Minister Dahal, so that he is unable to make independent decisions.
The Maoist party is particularly displeased with Minister for Foreign Affairs Narayan Prakash Saud from the NC. “The Foreign Minister has failed to strike a balance among the three major powers because he and his party are biased towards India and the US.”
During his China visit, Prime Minister Dahal made some commitments regarding the Belt and Road Initiatives and other projects, but there has been little to no follow through on those pledges. The Maoists blame the NC-led Foreign Ministry for this.
Maoist leaders say Prime Minister Dahal wants to sign the BRI implementation plan at the earliest, but the foreign minister has not been cooperative.
Some NC leaders believe that the only reason the NC-Maoist coalition has not fallen through is because Deuba wants to ensure a smooth transfer of power. They say the party president is of the belief that he can get to power only if Dahal is allowed to remain in power for two and a half years.
Though there are strong voices inside the NC that the party should not forge an electoral alliance with Maoists in the next general elections, Deuba is of the view that without an alliance the NC alone cannot maintain the status of the largest party.
However, Deuba does not see the similar prospect in forging an alliance with the UML. He is of the view that there cannot be an electoral partnership between first and second parties. The NC regards the UML, which has a strong organizational base, as a key election rival.
In the past, the UML had even reached out to the NC, proposing an alliance deal between the two parties to ensure the government’s stability until the next elections. But Deuba was not keen to talk with the UML.
As the Maoist-NC coalition teeters on the brink, the UML watches from the sidelines. UML Chairman Oli, who had previously made his mission to win a single party majority in the 2027 general elections, has been hinting at mid-term elections in recent days. Oli senses the simmering tension within the ruling coalition.
Prime Minister Dahal is likely to face more political challenges from his own coalition partner and the opposition in the days ahead. The UML and Rastriya Prajatantra Party are already planning to hit the streets against the government. The last thing Dahal wants is an unruly coalition.