Yam Lal Kandel’s time has come, finally

Kiran Poudel 05 Apr 2024
Yam Lal Kandel’s time has come, finally

KATHMANDU: Following the 2017 general elections, Yam Lal Kandel of the CPN-UML emerged as the frontrunner for the position of Chief Minister of Karnali Province. Elected to the 2008 Constituent Assembly from Surkhet-2 constituency, Kandel had contested the provincial assembly election with the sole aim of securing the chief ministerial role.

The UML and CPN (Maoist Center) had formed an alliance for the elections. Since UML was the largest party in the provincial assembly with 20 seats, Kandel was the frontrunner for the position. With UML leadership also on his side, Kandel had every reason to believe he would be Karnali’s first chief minister.

Sherdhan Rai and Hikmat Karki in Koshi, Astalaxmi Shakya and Dormani Poudel in Bagmati, Prithvi Subba Gurung in Gandaki, Shankar Pokhrel in Lumbini and Kandel in Karnali were the aspirants for the chief minister’s role from UML. UML had no declared aspirants for the position in Sudurpashchim and Madhesh provinces.

As per the power-sharing deal between UML and Maoist Center, UML secured governments in Koshi, Bagmati, Gandaki and Lumbini provinces, while Karnali and Sudurpashchim were allocated to the latter. It was mutually agreed that UML would get either Lumbini or Karnali. However, as the Maoist Center insisted on Karnali, Kandel had to face disappointment. Mahendra Bahadur Shahi of Maoist Center became Karnali’s first chief minister with Kandel’s backing. Despite winning half of the 40 seats in the Karnali Province Assembly in the 2017 general elections, UML supported Shahi as per the party’s directive.

The two parties, which had reached an understanding for party unification before the election, officially merged to become Nepal Communist Party (NCP).

“Kandel was certain to become chief minister of Karnali after the 2017 elections, but the party did not back his claim,” said Karnali Province Assembly Member Karbir Shahi. “It was a challenging time for the UML.”

Another opportunity arose for Kandel in 2021. After the reinstatement of  UML and Maoist Center following the split of the NCP, Chief Minister Shahi was required to undergo a floor test. Shahi’s government was certain to fall. However, four UML assembly members defected and supported Shahi’s motion for a vote of confidence. UML ultimately split and those four became assembly members of CPN (Unified Socialist). UML’s strength in the province assembly was reduced from 20 to 16.

“It was a significant setback for the party. The party suffered a lot because of some party members who did not adhere to the party’s decision,” recalled Kandel.

Shahi’s tenure was short-lived though. With the formation of a coalition between the Maoist Center and Nepali Congress at the central level, Jeevan Bahadur Shahi of the Nepali Congress assumed the chief minister’s position.

Second Provincial Assembly Elections

Kandel decided to contest the provincial assembly elections once again and was elected from the Surkhet-2(1) constituency.

UML’s performance in the provincial elections, however, weakened as the Nepali Congress and Maoist Center had formed an alliance in the election. It could only become the third largest force with 10 seats – half of its 2017 election tally. Nepali Congress emerged as the largest party with 14 seats, followed by the Maoists with 13.

However, after the elections, the Maoist Center made a U-turn and formed a new coalition with the UML. “Kandel had another opportunity to become Chief Minister. However, once again, the two parties agreed that the Maoist Center would form the government in Karnali,” Karbir said.

The Maoist Center was adamant about securing Karnali, while the UML preferred Lumbini over Karnali yet again. Maoist Center Deputy General Secretary Janardan Sharma’s cousin Rajkumar Sharma showed aspiration to become Chief Minister of Karnali. UML sources say Janardan struck a deal with UML leaders to secure Karnali Province for the party. Eventually, Rajkumar Sharma became the province’s Chief Minister.

Fortune finally smiles for Kandel

Following the formation of a new coalition between UML and the Maoist Center, the two parties recently agreed that UML would lead the next government in Karnali Province.

It seemed that the stars were finally aligning for Kandel. However, Chief Minister Sharma refused to resign as had the backing of Maoist Center Deputy General Secretary Janardan Sharma.

Despite pressure from both parties to comply with the agreement, Sharma scheduled a vote of confidence for Wednesday. UML leaders urged Sharma to refrain from holding the vote and to adhere to the agreement, but he remained firm. Many Maoist leaders tried to convince Sharma to follow the party’s decision. Maoist Center Chairperson and Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal even sent former Chief Minister Mahendra Bahadur Shahi to Surkeht to convince Sharma, but to no avail.

After a lot of pressure from Maoist Center and the request of UML leaders to adhere to the decision made at the central level, Chief Minister Sharma eventually relented. This paved the way for Kandel to finally assume the role of chief minister.

Kandel has the support of 23 members in the Karnali Province Assembly, one more than the required 22. It seems that fortune has finally smiled for Kandel.

Published On: 05 Apr 2024


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