By Barun Das Gupta
Nepal Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli lost parliamentary majority on May 10 but did not resign. He continues to be the PM, courtesy president Bidya Devi Bhandari. The next election to the House of Representatives will be held on November 12 and 19 this year. In the 275 member Lower House, Oli got only 75 votes on May 10, when 232 votes were cast. The Prachanda faction of the now-split Nepal Communist Party does not support him, the Nepal Congress does not support him, the Rashtriya Janata Party does not support him but they cannot join hands together to form an alternative government. So Oli continues to occupy the high office without majority. This is the tragedy of Nepal
When Olilost majority in May, it was hoped that the Nepali Congress with 61 members, Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda’s Maoist Centre with 49 members and the Rashtriya Janata Party with 17 members will be able to form a coalition government. But disunity among them denied the people a government enjoying parliamentary majority. As things stand, the November elections are also not likely to give a clear mandate to any one party and the stalemate may continue. Intra-party differences continue to bedevil Nepal politics.
Oli and Prachanda, once comrades, are now bitter enemies who cannot stand each other. But with the President on his side, Oli has an advantage over Prachanda. President Bhandari cut her political teeth while she was a college student. She got involved in Left politics and this involvement broadened her political horizon greatly. She worked actively against the monarchy and soon became the leader of the Eastern Zonal Committee of the All Nepal Free Students’ Union – a position she held for eight long years. She joined the Youth League of the Nepal Communist Party (Marxist Leninist) of Oli and in 1978 she got full membership of the party in 1980. This brief background enables one to understand why she is with Oli and his CPN (ML).
Those familiar with Nepal politics are not much hopeful of the stalemate being resolved and a stable government with unassailable parliamentary majority being formed. Even China has failed to prevent the split in the now dissolved Nepal Communist Party. In fact the unification of the CPN(UML) of Oli and CPN(Maoist Centre) of Prachanda into the NCP did not take place as a result of ideological and programmatic unity of the two. Both factions realized that only the unity of the two factions into a single party can give them the parliamentary majority they needed to form a government. This they did and the Nepal Communist Party was born.
But the basic political differences between the two factions and the and the personal incompatibility between Prachanda and Oli remained and after prolonged and bitter “inner-party struggle” the two factions fell apart, creating political stability in the country. That situation persists. The Nepali Congress does not enjoy the requisite popular support that will give it a majority on its own to form a government.
Strategically located between India and China, neither country wants a Nepal embroiled in political uncertainty. And every move by India or China is blown out of proportion to settle scores between the two communist factions. Last year, the Chinese ambassador to Nepal, Hou Yanqi tried to bring peace between the two factions but failed. But her direct involvement in what was seen as internal politics of Nepal drew much public and media attention and criticism.
Similarly, when Prime Minister Oli met the chief of India’s Research and Analysis Wing, Samanta Kumar Goel, there was a spate of criticism against Oli even from his own party, for what was seen as a breach of diplomatic norms. Meanwhile, China and Nepal continue to hold joint military exercises from time to time, much to the annoyance and apprehension of New Delhi. In the wake of the conflict in eastern Ladakh China has started work on building the trans-Himalayan railway connecting Tibet’s capital Lhasa with Nepal capital Kathmandu. The line will ultimately be extended to Lumbini near the Indo-Nepal border. It will enable China to bring men and materiel right up to the Indian border by train.
Unlike Beijing, New Delhi has very wisely not taken any overt interest in the internal politics of Nepal. Despite the Nepal-Tibet railway line which is being built and despite the 800 km long China-Nepal “Friendship” Highway, India continues to be Nepal’s most dependable friend. Most countries which have received financial “aid” from China have now realized that China’s “friendship“ comes at too high a cost. Now it has started bullying the smaller countries also. The not-so-veiled threat to Bangladesh not to join the India-Japan-US-Australia Quad is an instance. India will do well not to take direct interest in her neighbouring countries’ internal politics but quietly assure them that India will stand by them in any crisis. (IPA Service)