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Next Door Nepal: United they need to stand

All players must be made stakeholders to achieve political stability.

Written by Yubaraj Ghimire | Published: February 12, 2018 1:30 am
Nepal elections, nepal polls, KP Sharma Oli, Nepal PM, Nepail congress, Left party alliance, nepal voting, Sher Bahadur Deuba, Nepali constitution, A face-off involving the Nepali Congress and its allies on the one hand and the Hindu nationalist forces on the other seems in the offing. (REUTERS)

Post-election settlement in Nepal is moving forward at a snail’s pace, mainly because of the lack of clarity in the constitution. The absolute majority won by the Left Alliance comprising the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre raised the hope of political stability in the country. However, personal and party interests involving actors and political forces have worked against any settlement.

Although the Left Alliance has come to an agreement on power-sharing in six of the seven provinces — the UML will lead in four and the Maoists in two — with 70:30 share in the government, the two have not been able to strike a deal regarding government formation at the Centre. A stumbling block is the proposed merger of the two parties, a decision taken by leaders of the two parties before the elections. While Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal has agreed to accept UML chief K P Oli as the prime minister, Oli and his party are yet to agree to Dahal’s precondition that he be allowed to head the unified party.

The disunity is not limited to the Left Alliance. A face-off involving the Nepali Congress and its allies on the one hand and the Hindu nationalist forces on the other seems in the offing. The latter have also rejected the present constitution.

President Bidhya Devi Bhandari is set to summon the newly-constituted parliament within a month. The new government is expected to be formed a week after that. The issues and differences among the various parties regarding the constitution will have to be amicably settled before these processes begin.

Last week, the former king, Gyanendra Shah, made an unusual comment before his supporters and the media at the Tribhuvan International Airport prior to his departure to Puri. “Yes, the leaves and branches may have fallen, but I will make every effort to save the roots,” he said. He was clearly implying that though the constitution declares the country a secular republic, he has not given up on efforts to revive the Hindu kingdom. The cause he espouses increasingly has takers among people who are fed up by the rising corruption and poor governance by the major parties. There is enough traction now in the Hindu cause that it will need be listened to when a political deal is negotiated. Excluding this section from the power structure could make the constitution’s future uncertain.

As political uncertainty looms, the army is assuming a visibly pro-active role. The army chief, Rajendra Chhetri, has hosted at least five army chiefs — of Myanmar, South Africa, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom and India — besides the US Pacific region’s four-star general in the past two months. He has also been consulting his predecessors and others on the role of the army should the constitution fail to establish a secular democratic order. The chief of the Indian Army, General Bipin Rawat, who is also an honorary general of the Nepal Army, is being invited to be the special guest on the Nepal Army Day, which is celebrated every year on Mahashivaratri day. Interestingly, it appears that the defence and foreign ministries are not involved in planning these visits.

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s day-long visit two weeks ago continues to fuel intense debate and speculation. She had termed it a goodwill visit. In fact, she did make efforts to mend fences with the prime minister in waiting, Oli. However, a section in the CPN-UML believes that she was in Kathmandu to push Dahal’s claims to lead a united Communist Party of Nepal. Such a perception will surely have some impact on the merger talks. There are compelling reasons to take Swaraj’s outreach to Nepali leaders at face value. From government agencies affiliated with the Indian embassy to the ever-growing RSS network here, many had wrongly concluded that the Nepali Congress was set for another term in office.

For now, Oli looks set to become the prime minister in a few weeks, with or without the merger of the two communist parties. However, the Maoists may limit their role in the government to supporting it from the outside if Dahal’s demand for the unified party’s leadership is not met. That will certainly hamper the implementation of the constitution. In the coming days, the actors aspiring to assume office would be forced to recognise that power will need to be shared among all the forces to achieve political stability, which has eluded Nepal for over a decade.

yubaraj.ghimire@expressindia.com

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  1. Bihari Krishna Shrestha
    Feb 13, 2018 at 3:32 pm
    With elections and Mr. Oli now taking over as majority PM, normalcy seems to be returning to Nepal. But only superficially. The same corrupt faces are ready to replace the stinking bunch of NC wallas and their cohorts. So, people remain deeply disgusted. Secondly, the federalization project's financial viability was never examined by these political crooks, now rendering the nation's c s bankrupt. People had overwhelmingly rejected federalization and had wanted Nepal to remain a Hindu state in the nationwide consultation on the new cons ution in 2015. But Mr Oli and co. in particular never used that popular verdict in finalizing the cons ution, thus making its legitimacy questionable. The only saving grace for the new government would be that Mr. Oli recently had committed that he has no other personal agenda than going wholeheartedly for the country's betterment. It is worth noting that such political logjam was resolved with the army stepping in to oust Mugabe in Zimbabwe.
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    1. Seshubabu Kilambi
      Feb 12, 2018 at 9:57 pm
      All the stakeholders are embroiled in power struggle and snatch of domination from each other ... Nepal is being ruled by many rulers from many sides
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      1. K. K. Sharma
        Feb 12, 2018 at 4:22 pm
        All the political parties had and are finding difficult to manage their respective parties. It is only most of the Nepali intellectuals, and the Westerners, who have kept thinking that the parties that cannot manage themselves, will some how manage this country properly.
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          Drkhalid
          Feb 12, 2018 at 2:55 am
          Dear Nepali brothers, Do not trust the Indian sanghi govt. They have been abusing the Dalits in India since thousands of years and will try to operpower you as well. I have myself left India considering that what a shi-t-ho-le of a country feku has made it. It is a safer bet for you to depend on china instead of India, just like srilanka, Maldives and other Indian neighbours have found out. From India, you will only get back stabbing and nothing else. Indian govt cannot solve the problems of own citizens like me, how will they solve your problems ? Thanks.
          (6)(9)
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