Nepal's political crisis deepened on Friday as both embattled Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli and the Opposition parties staked a claim for the formation of a new government by submitting letters comprising signatures of lawmakers to President Bidya Devi Bhandari.
Prime minister Oli reached the President's Office Shital Niwas a couple of minutes ahead of the Opposition leaders.
He submitted the letter claiming support of 121 lawmakers from his own party Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist–Leninist (CPN-UML) and 32 lawmakers of Janata Samajbadi Party-Nepal (JSP-N) for his reappointment pursuant to Article 76(5) of the Constitution.
JSP-N president Mahantha Thakur, JSP-N Parliamentary Party leader Rajendra Mahato and PM Oli had signed the letter submitted to the President, CPN-UML leader Bishnu Rimal was quoted as saying in The Himalayan Times.
Earlier, Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba claimed to have garnered the support of 149 lawmakers.
Deuba, along with the leaders of Opposition parties, reached the President's Office to stake claim for the post of prime minister.
The Opposition's decision came after Prime Minister Oli reportedly expressed unwillingness on Thursday to undergo another floor test to prove his government's majority in the House of Representatives.
Leaders of the Opposition alliance including the Nepali Congress (NC), CPN (Maoist Center), the Upendra Yadav-faction of Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP) and the ruling CPN-UML's Madhav Nepal faction claimed to have the support of 149 lawmakers of the House of Representatives (HoR), said Nepali Congress senior leader Prakash Man Singh.
The number includes 61 MPs of Nepali Congress, 48 of Maoist Center, 13 of JSP and 27 of UML.
The leaders from the Opposition alliance left for the President's official residence, Shital Niwas, to submit the signatures of 149 lawmakers recommending Sher Bahadur Deuba's appointment as the prime minister.
Deuba, 74, is the president of the Nepali Congress and served as the prime minister of Nepal on four different occasions; first from 1995 to 1997, then from 2001 to 2002, again from 2004 to 2005, and from 2017 to 2018.
The veteran politician currently serves as the Leader of the Opposition since the 2017 general elections. He is also the current president of the Nepali Congress, having been elected to the position in 2016.
The ball is now in the court of President Bhandari.
President Bhandari had given the parties a deadline until 5 pm, Friday, to present their claim.
On Thursday, the government had recommended the president to initiate the formation of a new government pursuant to Article 76 (5) of the Constitution of Nepal as Prime Minister Oli was not 'in the mood' to withstand another floor test.
The prime minister, after his reappointment on May 10, was supposed to gather the House of Representatives' confidence within 30 days.
It was feared that if the new government could not be formed as per Article 76 (5), Oli would invoke Article 76 (7) and recommend dissolution of the House of Representatives yet again.
Oli, who is the Chairman of the CPN-UML, was sworn in as Nepal's Prime Minister as per Article 76 (3) of the Constitution on May 14, four days after he lost a crucial vote of confidence in Parliament.
The CPN-UML is the largest party with 121 seats in the 275-member House of Representatives.
At present, 136 votes are needed to form a majority government. Oli was required to seek a vote of confidence in the House of Representatives within 30 days of his appointment to the post.
Earlier on Thursday, the president's office stated that the government had forwarded a request to invoke Article 76 (5) as Prime Minister Oli, it has been learnt, is in no mood to undergo another parliamentary floor test as there is no prospect of an otherwise result given the complex internal dynamics within parties represented in the federal parliament.
There have been differences between Oli and the senior leader of the rival faction of the party Madhav Kumar Nepal since the vote.
In a temporary relief for Oli, the Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to issue an interim order on the writ petitions against his controversial oath-taking and reappointment of the seven ministers who are not lawmakers.
Four writ petitions were filed in the Supreme Court of Nepal on Monday demanding that Oli be sworn in again as he disgraced the office of the President by refusing to repeat all the words she recited during the oath-taking ceremony.
Nepal plunged into a political crisis on December 20 last year after President Bhandari dissolved the House and announced fresh elections on April 30 and May 10 at the recommendation of Prime Minister Oli, amidst a tussle for power within the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP).
Oli's move to dissolve the House sparked protests from a large section of the NCP led by his rival 'Prachanda'.
In February, the apex court reinstated the dissolved House, in a setback to Oli who was preparing for snap polls.