Rift in left alliance as Maoist Centre ministers boycott Modi's civic reception

Kathmandu, May 12

Tension between CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre that has been brewing for quite some time is gradually heating up and becoming public, putting a question mark on the fate of the proposed merger of the two parties.

The conflict between left alliance partners came out in the open today after ministers from the CPN-Maoist Centre boycotted the civic reception hosted by Kathmandu Metropolitan City in honour of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who arrived in Nepal yesterday for a two-day state visit.

“We were invited to the reception but we could not participate due to our busy schedule,” Surya Subedi, political adviser to Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa, who leads the CPN-Maoist Centre in the government, told THT. Maoist ministers were, however, present during the civic reception organised yesterday by Janakpur Sub-metropolitan City.

The development comes a day after Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation Minister Barshaman Pun, who belongs to the CPN-Maoist Centre, was not invited to a ceremony organised to remotely lay the foundation stone of the 900MW Arun III Hydropower Project. The mega hydro project was jointly inaugurated by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Modi.

“The energy ministry is not happy with the manner in which the Oli-led Investment Board Nepal was allowed to grant generation license to Arun III project, bypassing the Department of Electricity Development, which is the authorised agency to grant such permits,” said an energy ministry source. He added, “The Investment Board Nepal should not have been allowed to make the move, as the Ministry of Law had issued a letter stating that the energy ministry, which is the parent body of the DoED, is the authority responsible for granting power generation licence to hydropower companies.”

But the discontent among Maoist leaders does not end here.

Maoist leaders are also not happy about the Cabinet's decision to seek clarification from Nepal Telecom Managing Director Kamini Rajbhandari, who was appointed on the recommendation of the CPN-MC. On Monday, Rajbhandari was asked to clarify why she should not be removed from the top post of the state-owned enterprise. Rajbhandari, whose term expires in September 2020, was given a week's deadline to furnish clarification.

She was summoned by both PM Oli and Communications Minister Gokul Baskota regarding her performance at Nepal Telecom..

Maoist leaders see this move as an attempt to vacate key posts occupied by Maoist-backed candidates. “Some of the appointees have been removed from their posts, while some others will be removed soon,” a senior CPN-MC leader said.

Earlier, Nepal Television's Executive Chairman Mahesh Dahal, who was also backed by the CPN-MC, had resigned after coming under undue pressure from the communications minister. Oli had also disregarded CPN-MC Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal's request to incorporate some of the members of his party, including former CPN-MC lawmaker Hem Raj Bhandari, in the prime minister's advisory team. His inclusion, according to Maoist leaders, would have sent a positive message regarding the party unification process.

These overtures are being seen as indications that Oli is being insensitive towards the coalition partner. “This is creating more misunderstanding between the two forces of the left alliance, putting the party unification process at stake,” the senior leader said.