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Reshuffle? Not yet.

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Sher-Bahadur-Deuba-RSSPolitics is a game of possibilities, and who knows it better than Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal?

Dahal articulated this political cliché, tabling a no-confidence motion in Parliament against PM KP Oli in August 2016. He then succeeded Oli as PM with the backing of his foe-turned-friend NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba.

But last week, when the country was waking up from the Dasain slumber, Dahal stabbed Deuba in his back by announcing a coalition with Oli.

It was a wholly unexpected blow to Deuba’s plan to keep Oli’s UML out of power for at least five years, by forging a long-term ruling coalition between his party and the Maoists.

In what looked like a fit of rage, Deuba began consulting constitution experts and lawyers and even mulled throwing the Maoists out of the government, and reshuffling the cabinet by inducting new ministers from the RJP, the FSFN and the RPPs.

Deuba also initiated a move to cobble a ‘democratic’ coalition to counter the left alliance, and the ultimate unification between the country’s two largest communist parties.

Of the three fringe parties whom Deuba needs if he is to kick the Maoists out of the Singha Darbar, the RPP led by Kamal Thapa, as expected, became the first party to express its interest in joining a government which will soon be rendered as a caretaker.

Thapa reportedly wants the Home Ministry – a key cabinet portfolio currently held by Maoist leader Janardan Sharma, and three other ministries. But the Maoists, aware of the benefits of being incumbent during elections, are not ready to quit and give the opportunity to Thapa and other Madhesi leaders.

Initially, Deuba wanted to force the Maoists out of the government, paving the way for Madhesi-RPP leaders. But now, he seems to have regained his composure, weighing the pros and cons of reshuffling the cabinet without Maoist ministers.

It seems Deuba changed his mind after a meeting with Dahal on last Friday. Sources say Dahal reminded Deuba that politics is a game of possibilities, and the chances of the Maoists once again ditching the UML and forming another coalition government with the NC will still be alive after elections.

“What if the Maoists fall out with the UML and their unification does not take place? They need us, and we need them,” said an NC source. “So it would not be wise to further strain relations with the Maoists by throwing them out of the government.”

So, at present, Deuba is unlikely to kick the Maoists out, and induct Madhesi-RPP leaders. It seems his strategy is to engage everyone but UML in negotiations, and prevent the Left Alliance from winning a two-thirds majority.

If the Left Alliance simply wins a two-third – not easy though, it will form the government, and the NC will be left out of power longer than ever in the past. If it just wins a majority, the NC will have time and space to play and create rifts within the Left Alliance, and pull the Maoists away.

Possibilities are unlimited, and PM Deuba has kept all the doors open.

Om Astha Rai


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