By Arun Kumar Shrivastav
The political situation in Nepal continues to be fluid. Exactly two months since the new government was formed, it’s in minority. The largest partner of the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government, the CPN-UML, has withdrawn support from the government. Now, the government must seek a vote of confidence within a month to continue in the power. The trigger for the latest political crisis comes from the upcoming presidential elections.
Prime Minister Dahal was sworn into power two months ago after the CPN-UML decided to support him. But Dahal did not return the goodwill by endorsing a CPN-UML candidate for the president’s post. Rather, his party decided to support the opposition National Congress’s Ram Chandra Paudel. A crucial meeting lasting for two hours between Dahal and CPN-UML chief KP Sharma Oli on Friday left Oli disappointed as the National Congress had already secured Dahal’s support.
At the time of the CPN-Maoist Center’s attempt to grab power despite not having even half the numbers that the two big parties each had, Dahal had reportedly proposed that the posts of President, Vice-President, Speaker, and Deputy Speaker should be filled by consensus but Oli had not agreed to this. When Dahal was seeking a vote of confidence in the parliament, Nepali Congress had offered its support, to the dismay of his largest coalition partner CMN-UML.
However, what led the CPN-UML to pull out of the government is not the decision to support the National Congress’ candidate by CPN Maoist Center. Prime Minister Dahal decides to block foreign minister Bimala Rai Paudyal’s Geneva trip where she was scheduled to attend a UN human rights meeting. Earlier, after the CPN-UML’s presidential hopes were dashed by the government, among the four deputy prime ministers, one from the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) quit the government along with three ministers. Later, RPP also quit the government.
So, when it comes to seeking a vote of confidence in the house, the Nepali Congress may return the goodwill extended by Dahal in supporting its candidate for the President’s post and Dahal may continue to be the Prime Minister of Nepal. CPN-UML and Nepali Congress fought the elections together but when it came to choosing a prime ministerial candidate, with both sticking to their guns, Dahal outmanoeuvred Nepali Congress by securing CPN-UML’s support. This arrangement ensures that Nepali Congress wouldn’t share the blame for helping a former fighter become the Prime Minister. For Dahal, too, helping the Nepali Congress candidate become the President helps him improve his image and acceptability across regimes, some of which may still be doubtful and critical of his past.
While the coalition government led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal may be in minority, it seems he will be able to survive the vote of confidence with the help of the Nepali Congress. Compared to all the communist leaders in Nepal, Dahal is not only the most popular but also someone who can carry everyone along. But, as is common in politics, he is often failed by the protégés he built as he rose from a small-time school teacher to prime minister of the country.
Given this, his understanding of and relationship with the Nepali communist leaders is an asset. This makes him the best bet not only for the Nepali Congress but also for other countries with strong democratic moorings such as India and the US. Will India and the US engage with a Prime Minister who led a 10-year-long bloody civil war in his country? Well, they don’t have better choices. For example, the KP Sharma Oli government in the past has been quite a pain in the neck for India.
It seems pragmatism is prevailing in Dahal’s politics and he would, perhaps, like the world to forget his past. The best way to achieve this is by doing things that don’t put him, especially as the prime minister, in the same league as his comrades. For instance, he can’t antagonize India by overly leaning toward China when most of the essential goods are going to come to Nepal via India.
This is true for not only the next few years but for, at least, a few decades. Ordinary people will never support a government that doesn’t care where the food and fuels come from. After leading the country from monarchy to democracy, pragmatism is the only way forward for Dahal. So, by junking CPN-UML and KP Sharma Oli, Dahal is dropping a baggage that he no longer requires. (IPA Service)