KATHMANDU, Oct 18: In a dramatic turn of events Tuesday, ruling coalition partner CPN (Maoist Center) decided to quit the government and then immediately changed its mind, citing secret information that the prime minister was trying to postpone the upcoming elections.
Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal earlier on Tuesday had assured Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba of recalling the party's ministers after the latter warned of relieving the Maoist ministers of their portfolios if they didn't resign proactively. According to Maoist leaders, they had decided to submit their resigns en masse and had also drafted a letter to Deuba later the same day.
Home Minister Janardan Sharma had come with the letter to a press meet held at the Home Minister in the afternoon. “I had convened this press meet to announce our decision to quit the government, but I now have different information for you,” Sharma told media. “We have now backtracked from our plan, following secret information about the prime minister's plans to postpone the upcoming elections.”
According to Maoist sources, they were told that the Supreme Court (SC) was all set to order separate ballot papers for the first-past-the-post (FPTP) and proportional representation (PR) categories, in response to a writ petition filed by Rastriya Janata Party Nepal leader Sarbendra Nath Sukla on September 22. The writ has demanded separate ballot papers instead of just separate columns in the ballots for the upcoming two elections.
Minister for Urban Development Prabhu Saha. meanwhile said, “We verified through various channels that Deuba has been planning to postpone the polls, citing the court order. So we decided not to quit the government as our stepping down would help Deuba's plans.”
The home minister had claimed that they got the secret information through the Election Commission just as they were about to sign the resignation letter. But another minister said the information had come through the SC. However, the apex court didn't issue any order on the writ petition on Tuesday. It is set to decide on the matter on Wednesday.
The home minister also said,“We are not prolonging our stay in the government for the sake of power. We are ready to quit but we also want to ensure that the elections take place and people's exercise their right to choose their representatives before we quit.”
Journalists were eagerly waiting for the resignation announcement by the Maoist ministers at the press meet convened at the home ministry. But Minister Sharma left the ministry a few minutes before the scheduled time for the press meet to attend an emergency meeting at the Maoist parliamentary party office in Singha Durbar. Returning after half an hour, Sharma said that they had backtracked from their previous plan upon sensing the poll postponement ploy.
“We reached the conclusion that Prime Minister Deuba has been looking for an excuse to postpone the polls, fearing the recently formed left alliance. The information we have was trustworthy,” said Minister for General Administration Tek Bahadur Basnet.