Coalition collision

The governing alliance is fraying as Nepal’s prime minister comes under pressure

LEFT-RIGHT: Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal during a central committee meeting of the Maoist Centre this week. Two days earlier, some victims of loan sharks stormed Parliament protesting government inaction. Photo: RATNA SHRESTHA / RSS

Dairy farmers have been dumping milk on the streets because they are owed Rs6 billion by buyers. Victims of loan sharks and cooperatives have stormed Parliament. 

And that was just this week. Nepalis are increasingly exasperated with a government formed just a year-and-a-half ago, and with three more years to go for the next elections.

The problem stems from the third largest party, the Maoist Centre, having the prime ministerial and other powerful posts in government. The Nepali Congress (NC), the biggest party by far in Parliament, is behaving like a minor partner. 

Last week, there were vociferous demands at the NC General Committee meeting to abandon the coalition in the next election, and this week the Maoist standing committee also decided to go it alone in the 2027 election.  

While both parties say they will not leave the current coalition, it is clear that the alliance is fraying at the seams. 

“The Maoists and Congress threatening to contest elections independently is more an election strategy than a signal that the coalition is falling apart,” says analyst Indra Adhikari. 

She adds, “It was more a reassurance to party members at a time of dissatisfaction and uncertainty within parties. Forming electoral alliances and forming coalitions are different matters.” 

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Victims of loan sharks and cooperatives during a protest Pradarshani Marg. Photo: HARRAM BHETUWAL

The current coalition of erstwhile extreme Communists with a centre-right Congress could not be more ideologically different. It was cobbled together after the 2022 elections just so that the Maoists would not unite again with the opposition UML to form a powerful leftwing government.

The NC, Maoists and the UML’s commitment to contesting the election independently pertain to electoral alliances formed before the polls, not coalitions formed after, Adhikari adds.

The Maoist Centre’s two-day standing committee meeting discussed the anti-secular views of some NC members and Deputy Prime Minister Purna Bahadur Khadka's criticism of Maoist guerrilla excesses during the war.  

There is also mutual suspicion between the Maoists and NC over a deal that fell through involving the NC’s Krishna Prasad Sitaula as National Assembly chair in exchange for a Maoist heading Kosi Province. The NC did not back the Maoist candidate, so the Maoists are not supporting Sitaula.

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Nepali Congress leader Krishna Prasad Sitauls spoke at the NC Mahasamiti meeting last week. Photo: MADHV PRASAD GHIMIRE / RSS

According to a coalition power-sharing pact, Prime Minister Dahal is supposed to hand over the premiership to Sher Bahadur Deuba of the NC and Madhav Kumar Nepal of the Unified Socialists later this year.  

“Coalitions in countries like ours are at risk of falling apart from the moment they are formed, they do not work without compromise between parties that have different ideologies,” explains Adhikari. 

UML chair K P Oli is already campaigning for 2027 with a ‘Mission-84’ slogan and likened the coalition to “a lump of ash that will crumble whether it is dry or wet”.

Prime Minister Dahal appears to be mulling a Cabinet reshuffle in a bid to keep the coalition together. But his attempt to replace Finance Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat of the NC is getting no support from Deuba. 

The opposition UML, RSP, and the RPP have all demanded the resignation of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Minister Prakash Jwala of the Unified Socialist, Health and Population Minister Mohan Basnet of the NC, as well as the Maoist Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Sudan Kirati.

Minister Jwala was caught up in a riot on the Ring Road in December in which protesters set fire to his car, and two people were killed when the police fired at the crowd. An investigation found he disregarded security concerns.

Health Minister Basnet is being probed by the anti-corruption bureau over a 2021 procurement of surveillance equipment for the Nepal Telecommunications Authority. And Kirati is implicated in a scandal involving a private contract in Lumbini

There were heated exchanges in Parliament this week as coalition MPs accused the opposition of the pot calling the kettle black. The UML has skeletons in its closet too, and the RSP’s Rabi Lamichhane is embroiled in controversies involving a cooperative and his citizenship.

Says Indra Adhikari: “There is absolutely a need for leaders to reflect, take responsibility for the consequences of their actions, and be held accountable. The country's crises are too important.”

Shristi Karki


Shristi Karki is a correspondent with Nepali Times. She joined Nepali Times as an intern in 2020, becoming a part of the newsroom full-time after graduating from Kathmandu University School of Arts. Karki has reported on politics, current affairs, art and culture.