Half an hour before midnight on May 28th, 2008, the 240 year old monarchy was finally abolished and Nepal became a Democratic Republic. (I don’t think we need to dive deeper)
Mr. Oli was elected PM in February 2018 after his CPN-UML fought the 2017 general election in an alliance with the Maoists. Within months of coming to power, the CPN-UML and the Maoist Centre of Prachanda merged to form the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), which gave him nearly two-thirds majority in Parliament. But the pre-election unity did not last long. When the government was formed, the tacit understanding between the CPN-UML and the Maoists was that Mr. Oli and Mr. Prachanda would share the five-year term. But Mr. Oli refused to step down after two and a half years, pushing the NCP into a bitter intra-party feud. The widening rift was not along the former UML-Maoist ideological lines. Rather, Mr. Oli’s authoritarian style of governance and refusal to share power led to an erosion of support for the PM in the top echelons of the ruling party. To overcome his own weakness within the party and deny his rivals power, he dissolved Parliament. It is a typical case of greed for power and personality clashes trumping over the greater interests of a party, a government or a nation. When they formed a united front, it was a historic opportunity for Nepal’s otherwise divided communists to script a brighter future for the fledgling republican democracy. But in three years, Nepal is in chaos — Parliament has been dissolved, the PM has been sacked from the ruling party, and the party is split down the middle. Mr. Oli cannot escape responsibility for the crisis Nepal is in today.
2020 was planned as “Visit Nepal Year” by Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli. Supported by good flow of remittances and a robust forex reserve, Nepal was looking forward to make the most out of the year. It expected to capitalise on the tourism sector and planned to declare itself as a Himalayan power with a brand new global think tank meeting called “Sagarmatha Samvaad”. At the end COVID-19 and political crisis inside the ruling Nepal Communist Party prompted Mr Oli to take an unscripted path. Why did Prime Minister Oli dissolve the Parliament in Kathmandu when the house had two more years to serve.
One of the main issues was the growing dissatisfaction over Mr Oli’s handling of COVID-19 pandemic which drew relentless criticism from his party colleagues
One of the first to criticise Nepal government’s handling of COVID-19 was Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda who used the pandemic to seek transparency in the government’s handling of the crisis. Prachanda did not avoid strong criticism of the
government and even mentioned the need to investigate reported irregularities in his parliament speeches. Mr Prachanda kept reminding the country about the need to have wider discussion on COVID-19 handling even during the vote and discussion on the Kalapani dispute in the Parliament. PM Oli hit back at his critics on the COVID-19 issue in his own style and cited the “southern border” of Nepal – a synonym for India – as the reason for the increasing COVID-19 count. His critics pointed at a hint of scandal in the health sector because of the government’s allegedly non-transparent purchases to deal with the pandemic requirements. Nepal is yet to zero down to a viable vaccine as a result of the disorder in this crucial matter.
Apart from internal issues, there is also a geopolitical angle that hastened Oli-Prachanda conflict with Oli supporting Nepal joining US-backed Millenium Challenge Corporation and Prachanda opposing it on grounds of sovereignty. The discussion on this also failed to move the Standing Committee to Oli’s favour stalling a final decision. His critics accused him of isolating Nepal in the international arena because of diplomatic spat with India on the Kalapani dispute. They pointed out that US officials chose to visit Dhaka but avoided Kathmandu.
The dispute over Kalapani, which lies on the easternmost corner of Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district, between Nepal and India was revived in November 2019 when India published a revised political map showing the newly created Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. Both India and Nepal lay claim to Kalapani. The map showed Kalapani as part of Pithoragarh district. Nepal protested immediately and drew attention to the lingering issue. On May 8, India inaugurated the Darchula-Lipulekh pass link road, cutting across the disputed Kalapani area which is used by Indian pilgrims to Kailash Mansarovar. Nepal hit back by summoning the Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Vinay Mohan Kwatra, to convey a formal protest
India has described Oli’s sudden decision to dissolve Parliament and call for fresh elections as an “internal matter” that is for the country to decide as per its democratic processes.
However, China sent a four-member high-level delegation to Nepal in December to prevent a split within the ruling party. The team – led by a Vice minister of the Chinese Communist Party, Guo Yezhou – held separate meetings with several top NCP leaders before returning home without much success in its meetings with several top NCP leaders before returning home without much success in its mission.
When asked whether Oli, 68, known for his pro-China leanings, took the decision to dissolve the House under foreign influence, Prachanda said, “we need not drag foreign elements in our internal matter, as such things are largely determined by internal situation rather than external environment.”
What’s special about Nepal and India?
Nepal is a unique country whose citizens can enrol into the Indian civil services as also the Army, which bestows an honorary General’s title to the Nepal Army Chief, a gesture that is reciprocated in equal terms.
But the ongoing political turmoil with overt Chinese intervention signifies the evolution of a democratic process in Nepal which had its genesis in the Indian freedom struggle but has now come into its own.
PM Oli’s cartographic expansion of Nepal’s territory last year with a new map that included disputed territory with India symbolises a tendency among Nepalese politicians to use anti-India rhetoric as also push their two powerful neighbours in covert manoeuvres for domestic political gains.
A clear instance of this trend is Oli’s conversion of a challenge to his leadership into a larger ploy involving India and China. Nepal’s internal political processes are, therefore, significant to India’s strategic interests.
How did China encroach on India’s historic advantages?
India’s entrenched interests in Nepal suffered a setback in 2015, Months after two devastating earthquakes that killed 9000 people, Nepal is now confronted with another humanitarian crisis, this time due to a blockade at a crucial crossing on the border with India, which has halted oil and other essential supplies landlocked Nepal obtains from its giant neighbor. The blockade, which Nepal’s government blames on India (New Delhi denies involvement)
immediately followed the passage of a new constitution by Nepal on September 19. With the election of nationalistic leader K P Oli as prime minister in Nepal, the rift between Delhi and Kathmandu has widened, and could potentially lead to a massive humanitarian crisis, as shortages of fuel, medicines, and essential supplies become acute across Nepal, with no sign of a reconciliation in sight.
How has the situation evolved since the dissolution?
Since the dissolution, India has subtly contrasted its ostensibly hands-off approach, much appreciated in Nepal, to the rather proactive engagement of the Chinese envoy Hou Yanqi.
The Chinese have since abandoned Oli in their effort to save the ruling party from an inevitable split. India, while ostensibly keeping distance, has cultivated Oli against Prachanda’s attempts to form an alternative coalition.
While protests have continued in the streets against Oli’s dissolution of Parliament, he is now believed to be contemplating an alliance with the more India-friendly Nepali Congress because a new government can still be formed by the majority of a single party or through a new coalition.
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