Next Door Nepal: A resurgent nationalism

Growing popularity of CPN-UML points to a new assertion.

Written by Yubaraj Ghimire | Published:July 10, 2017 12:04 am
india nepal, nepal modi visit, modi in nepal, narendra modi, india nepal politics, indian express news, india news, world news, yubaraj ghimre, indian express opinion Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI photo

Narendra Modi was cheered as a hero and trustworthy friend during his two visits to Nepal in July and November of 2014. He conveyed the impression that he had introspected about the grievances Nepalis had nursed over the years against its giant neighbour to the south. He said India would support Nepal’s journey to a federal republican order, speed up its projects in Nepal and finish them on deadline and that India recognised Nepal as the country of Buddha’s birth. More importantly, he said India will be dealing with Nepal as an integrated whole, and not separately with the adjoining Tarai, or the distant hills and mountains, through different channels.

His words were meant to assuage the fear in the Nepali mind that India under Modi will bow to pressure from the RSS and do everything to restore Nepal’s monarchy and its status as a Hindu nation. He also gave the impression that India will not allow its diplomatic and intelligence agencies to dabble in Nepal’s internal politics, and that India and Nepal together will embark on a journey of development with full trust and confidence in each other.

But getting India out of Nepal’s internal politics was easier said than done. Rajendra Mahato, a prominent leader of the Madhesi Front, now called the Rastriya Janata Party, soon after his party’s humiliating defeat in the constituent assembly elections in 2013, said it was less of his, and more of “India’s defeat”. In September 2015, Mahato took the lead in burning the constitution that Nepal’s constituent assembly promulgated and India refused to welcome. He subsequently expressed solidarity with the Madhes groups that blocked trade points for five months and stifled Nepal’s economy. It created an anti-India sentiment that continues in the country.

The government of the day led by K.P. Oli, who is also the chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, identified totally with the prevailing national sentiment. Ever since the Indian establishment has perceived him as “China’s man”. However, Indian diplomats who decided the radical agenda for Nepal in 2005 with about half a dozen Nepali actors including the leaders of the CPM-Maoist, Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML, continue to believe that Oli represents only a fringe sentiment of the “hill elites” and that India continues to enjoy tremendous goodwill, decisive influence and respect across the length and breadth of the country.

However, the final outcomes of the local body elections held in 616 local bodies across six of the seven proposed provinces indicate that the UML has been able to establish control over 278 of them, including in the Tarai region. The CPN-UML has pushed the Nepali Congress to second place and the Maoists to a distant third position. Oli built bridges with China as India used a two-pronged strategy: It refused to recognise Nepal’s Constitution, and used the blockade to force Kathmandu to concede demands for the “most generous” citizenship laws for Madhes and give Madhesis representation in the elected bodies in proportion to the community’s population, a move that placed the thinly populated hills and mountains at a bigger disadvantage. Oli also agreed to diversify the bilateral relationship with China through new trade and transit agreements, and join the Belt and Road Initiative, something which has since become the irreversible basis of Nepal’s bilateral relations with the north.

Oli’s party believes that the grassroots support it has got was largely because of the “nationalist stand” it took during the blockade crisis. It believes that the trend will continue when the country goes for the provincial and federal elections by January next year.

No one knows if Indian Ambassador Manjeev Puri’s recent advice to the RJP to join the electoral process under the constitution they have rejected throughout on India’s advice was any indicator that the Modi government has started dealing with one “integrated” Nepal. But the RJP feels let down. It has nothing to justify its earlier boycott and border-picketing, which lead to the blockade. The Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), which aggressively maintained a pro-Hindutva and constitutional monarchy stance, suffered a total rout in the local bodies elections this time around. The RPP was the fourth largest party in the last parliamentary elections. The Nepali Congress and the Maoists think that the RPP leadership was not vigorous in championing its key issues, which enabled the UML to get the support of the “nationalists” comprising the monarchists, pro-Hindutva and “anti-Indian” voters.

On Friday, the former king, Gyanendra Shah, was greeted by large segments of the society from across regions at an assembly on his 71st birthday. The crowd, which included a large number of youth, wished him a return to his former office as a symbol of “unity”. “I have been through ups and downs in my life, but I take the convergence of a diverse population to greet me today as proof of a strong sentiment in favour of the country’s unity, peace and progress,” he said.

With the local bodies elections going the UML way, the ruling coalition comprising the Maoists and the Nepali Congress may not find it easy to run the government. The coalition will be under pressure from the UML as well as the pro-monarchy and traditional forces, which, separately and together, are likely to insist on a fresh conciliatory approach to ensure political stability. India must recognise that anti-Indian sentiments are visible everywhere, as it was mirrored in the local bodies election.

yubaraj.ghimire@expressindia.com

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  1. D
    Dirgha Raj
    Jul 12, 2017 at 11:10 am
    The article 'Next Door Nepal: A resurgent nationalism' by Yubaraj Ghimire is very good! He has posted the reality of Nepal's monarchy and its nationality. Nepal is standing on the verge of dismemberment in the last seven years. When the relationship between the king and the people have been detached one can easily imagine, Nepal can't remain safe and unified if monarchy is actually abolished from the country. In a country with such geographical and ethnic diversities Nepal will fall into a severely dangerous situation because of the tug of war for power and money.The Nepali Congress and the UML, who came to power after 1990 completely failed to steer the country and they handed over power to the King in 2001. Later when they failed to get position and power they climbed on the shoulder of the Maoists to fulfill their benefits. Then, to keep intact the relation between Nepal and India monarchy and Hindu kingdom must be in existence in Nepal. Dirgha Raj Prasai
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    1. U
      Upendra Gautam
      Jul 11, 2017 at 2:02 pm
      The writer has incisively grasped the political trend in Nepal. Now the acid test for all the shades of patriotic forces in Nepal is how true they are to their country. Experience has shown in Nepal that the general people across the country in Nepal are truer to their motherland than the so-called political groups who claim to be patriotic. To successfully manage the Indian nexus, these political groups must be able to call a spade a spade: regularize and effectively manage the international borders with India, a new treaty of peace and cooperation with India not targeted against any third country, and Nepal adopting a policy of Nepali citizens recruitment in the foreign security forces on an individual basis.
      Reply
      1. B
        Bhim Prasad Bhurtel
        Jul 11, 2017 at 1:49 pm
        It was not July 2014. It was exactly 3-4, August 2014. Very poor facts checking in such big Daily Like Indian Express. See : mea.gov /bilateral-documents.htm?dtl/23807/Joint Press Statement on the Visit of the Prime Minister to Nepal
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        1. R
          rudradev
          Jul 11, 2017 at 6:00 am
          These communists jokers will bring down to ruin the only Hindu nation of world. Kerala, W. B. long time communist ruled states, social harmony as well economy is downward there, communists are loyal to teaching of Marx not the nation and people. Communism is outdated system.
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          1. K
            K. K.
            Jul 11, 2017 at 7:42 am
            Outdated ??? They are dominant force in Nepal, thanks to Indian support to them against the Hindu Monarchy.
            Reply
          2. R
            Raj
            Jul 10, 2017 at 10:40 pm
            Only few months before, Upendra Yadav (leader of another Madhesi Party) accused Rajendra Mahato, leader of RJP that he holds an Indian Citizenship and falsely gained Nepali Citizen by fraud and illegal means. When Mr. Mahato was questioned by media how he gained Nepali Citizenship, he had NO answer to give and was stumped. That means millions of Bihari are illegally obtaining Nepali citizenship and worst joining the politics to influence Nepal's internal politics - which they have no rights of.
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            1. B
              Bihari Krishna
              Jul 10, 2017 at 4:38 pm
              As correctly pointed out, in the immediate aftermath of Modi's first visit to Nepal, he was so very popular that he could have taken on any Nepali politician and easily defeat him at the polls. But today, Modi is the most hated name in Nepal, because of the contrary decisions and insinuations that followed--failing to welcome Nepal's new Cons ution, imposing nearly half year long blockade against earthquake devastated Nepal, using the small cabal of first generation Indian immigrant, self-declared Bharatbadi madhesi politicians as India's Trojan horses to foment trouble in Nepal and so on. But it must have been a highly embarrassing experience for Mr. Modi personally, because he comes out as a head of government who is unable to honour his own words and is easily overshadowed by the country's chronically ill-reputed Babudom that has only produced strife with immediate neighbours and nothing consequential from those farther afield. But strangely no sign of change. Incredible India.
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              1. K
                Kamal Pasha
                Jul 10, 2017 at 12:27 pm
                india is the biggest enemy of Next Door Nepal.
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                1. D
                  Durga Prasad
                  Jul 10, 2017 at 1:10 pm
                  It is certain that with the arrival of UML in center, all Indians and Indian businessmen together with Indian Embassy will be thrown away. Hatred for India is so deep rooted that even a child of three has been taught how to hate anything Indian. The practice is from the hills to the terai. Therefore, Modi Ji should not think of Nepal anymore rather invest time and energy in Bhutan, Afghanistan, or Bangladesh. What if two neighbors go inimical? A big country like India should be in the group of big and rich to be inspired. Why should India be mired into petty things?
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                  1. K
                    K. K.
                    Jul 10, 2017 at 10:23 pm
                    Durga ji, There is not hate for India in Nepal, only for the policies of the Brown Sahibs of Delhi. Being pro-Nepal is not hating India.
                2. V
                  Venkat
                  Jul 10, 2017 at 12:03 pm
                  Two nations elites hate India the most one is Pakistan and the other is Nepal. These elites have used India to further their interests and looted the country. Everything is Kathmandu centric. There are no powers in the states. If power is decentralised Nepal would have been much more developed. The elites always use the nationalism and China card whenever they are in trouble. Oli was India's man until he turned against them, serves India right not to depend on politicians but have a concrete policy and playing one party against the other. Nepalese dream about the hydro dollars but unfortunately with the NEA that doesnt let anyone develop a project properly there is little chance of that potential being fulfilled. Now the solar revolution is bypassing hydro totally and making hydro very expensive and can be used only for peaking power which India has to buy. Best thing would be to abrogate 1950 treaty and make Nepalis apply for visas here also. Nepal gains more from the treaty than Ind
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                  1. K
                    K. K.
                    Jul 10, 2017 at 10:15 pm
                    Yes, time has come to restrict the border between India and Nepal. But it seem it will take years and years for the Brown Sahibs of Delhi to realize this. Global geopolitics are changing, but the thinking of the Brown Sahibs is still in the past.
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