What just happened in Nepali politics?

Everything you need to know about Nepal’s new left-led government


In yet another chapter of Nepal’s promiscuous political love triangle between the Nepali Congress (NC), Maoist Centre and UML, one leader has just dumped his partner to go off with his ex.

In the latest break-up -make-up political saga, the Maoists and the UML joined hands on Monday for the third time since 2017 to form a new left-led coalition.

The shotgun wedding between Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s Maoist Centre and UML Chair K P Oli means the NC’s Sher Bahadur Deuba is now in the opposition, together with Madhav Nepal's CPN-Unified Socialist.

Dahal and Oli have revived their power-sharing deal to rotate the premiership for two years each till the next elections in 2027. 

Besides the UML, the new coalition also includes Rabi Lamichhane’s Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) and Upendra Yadav’s Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP). CK Raut’s Janamat Party is also said to be in talks to join the government. 

Although there had been simmering discontent between the NC and the Maoist for some weeks, few expected the breakup to happen so suddenly. The Maoists are a distant third largest party in Parliament, but were aggrieved by the NC’s General Committee meeting last week in which members called for the party to go it alone, and reminded the Maoists of their war atrocities. Many NC delegates felt that as the largest party, it should not be letting the Maoists ride its coat-tails. But now the biggest party in Parliament is in the opposition. 

Monday morning was marked by a flurry of meetings between Prime Minister Dahal and Oli, Lamichhane and Yadav. 

Even as the new coalition swore in a small new Council of Ministers, Nepal’s public sphere gave a loud yawn on social media. The first phase of the new Cabinet will include three leaders each from the Maoists, UML, and RSP.

Most commentators ridiculed the three parties reshuffling the cards again to bring out the same persona, and that this change in government would not make any difference to the country’s economic and other crises. 

UML Chief Whip and former Health Minister Padam Giri joined the Council of Ministers on Monday. The Maoist Centre sent former Youth and Sports Minister Hit Bahadur Tamang to the Cabinet. RSP vice-chair Dol Prasad Aryal, who was briefly Labour Minister under the previous alliance between the Maoists and the RSP, was also sworn in. 

There is already a disagreement over the choice of Home Minister with both the UML and RSP laying claim. RSP’s Lamichhane insisted on the post he once held but had to give up because of the controversy over his American citizenship. The RSP is the fourth largest in Parliament.

Dahal was appointed Prime Minister in December 2022 after breaking the five-party coalition led by his predecessor Sher Bahadur Deuba’s NC and with support from K P Oli’s UML. 

Two months later, the Prime Minister got back together with NC and formed a new coalition government after forming a power-sharing deal between himself, Deuba, and CPN-Unified Socialist chair Madhav Kumar Nepal to divide up the premiership three ways for five years. 

The partnership between Dahal and Deuba had already been fragile, but the straw that broke the camel’s back this time appears to have been the NC’s General Committee meeting in February, during which leaders of the dissident faction called for the party to forego political alliances with other parties in 2027, which Deuba agreed to.

The Maoists were already angered after the NC allied with the UML to elect Kedar Karki the Chief Minister of Kosi Province after Karki and other members of NC refused to back the Maoist candidate for the position. 

This was compounded after the coalition’s Maoist candidate from Kosi Champa Karki lost the recent National Assembly election to the UML candidate. The party was also said to have been growing uneasy about the increasing anti-secular sentiment within the NC.

Dahal is said to have cited circumstances surrounding the Kosi and National Assembly elections as well as the discourse surrounding the NC-Maoist electoral partnership during the NC gathering as reasons for the breakup of the coalition. 

Dahal’s newest political move might also have been a tactic to detract from criticism of his government’s underperformance as well as the numerous corruption scandals that have marked his premiership in which the guilty have got away. 

Various members of the Cabinet including Physical Infrastructure and Transport Minister Prakash Jwala of the Unified Socialist was implicated in the Balkumari riot, Health and Population Minister Mohan Basnet of the NC in the procurement of surveillance equipment Teramocs, as well as the Maoist Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Sudan Kirati in private contract agreement of Lumbini’s Ramgram. 

Prime Minister Dahal told a program on Monday afternoon rather melodramatically: “The country will be in turmoil until the day I die … Maoists are not the kind to be content with continuity, rather, we thrive on disorganisation.”

As it stands, the new coalition will not only affect politics at home but also be consequential to Nepal’s relationships with giant neighbours India and China. 

China has always wanted Nepal’s left parties to stick together, and the US-India bloc have opposed it. The just dissolved coalition of the Maoists-NC was said to be better suited to India’s interests.