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Next door Nepal: A country for conspiracies

Distrust and partisanship among top leaders cast a pall over upcoming polls.

Written by Yubaraj Ghimire | Updated: October 23, 2017 7:31 am
Nepal, Nepal protests, Nepal constitution, Nepal government, Nepal supreme court, Baidyanath Upadhyay, Ram Prasad Siaula, Communist Party of Nepal, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, KP Oli, Nepal Deuba government, indian express, indian express column Nepali Congress, the oldest and currently the largest democratic party in the country, is busier finding out who brought the left parties together, than in formulating an effective counter strategy.

As the election process continues in full swing, with the filing of nomination on Sunday for polls to the provincial and federal legislatures on November 26 and December 7, political parties are promising the moon to a frustrated and angry electorate for the third time in nine years. While the first two elections — 2008 and 2013 — were for the constituent assembly, the upcoming one is the first time voting will take place in a federal set-up, under the constitution delivered two years ago.

On the one hand, there is visible enthusiasm among the electorate. At the same time, however, the fears of a tussle at the highest levels, especially between the president and prime minister, are pouring cold water on the excitement. Last week, President Bidhya Devi Bhandari threw a jibe at Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba when she hosted a reception in honour of the top leaders of three major parties. “Now that every aspect of the situation is favourable to the prime minister,” she said, “he can concentrate on conducting the polls.” Deuba had inducted seven more ministers from Rastriya Prajatantra Party, a new ally, in the council of ministers on the last day of the parliament session, hours before its tenure ended. Then, a week later, he stripped all 17 ministers from the Maoist party off their portfolios after the party crossed over to the newly-formed Left Alliance. On both actions taken by Deuba, who is also the chairman of the Nepali Congress, Bhandari was quiet.

However, Bhandari, a former vice president of the main opposition — the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) — began consulting the heads of “constitutional bodies”, hearing their grievances and seeking their suggestions on conducting elections. Constitutional and civil society leaders opine that the president is “just doing what she should as the head of the state”. But in a country where political partisanship is visible at all levels, including among the supreme court judges, members of constitutional bodies and the bureaucracy, such activities are seen with suspicion. Bhandari, in her capacity of the supreme commander of the army, is also likely to play a role in the mobilisation of security forces during the election and may not be guided completely by what the cabinet led by the Nepali Congress recommends.

An analysis of the local bodies poll that took place some months ago shows that the UML and Maoist votes, if put together, exceeds the Nepali Congress’s tally by 1. 2 million. That is a significant margin given that the average electorate in a parliamentary constituency is about 1,00,000. Despite the many differences and hurdles the UML and Maoists faced while finalising their common manifesto and candidates, the formation of the Left Alliance has given it a huge psychological advantage over the faction-ridden Nepali Congress.

Nepali Congress, the oldest and currently the largest democratic party in the country, is busier finding out who brought the left parties together, than in formulating an effective counter strategy.

In a country with conspiracy theories galore, there are multiple “suspects”: China, which has increased its interest and presence in the north, certain influential ex-bureaucrats from India who had, in alliance with the European Union, brought the Maoists and key political parties together in 2005-06. Conspiracy theories aside, Nepal’s key political parties — Nepali Congress, UML and the Maoists — still maintain a closer link with those bureaucrats, the Indian National Congress and the CPM in Delhi than with the BJP leaders. The latter, after all, came to power long after Nepal politics had been radicalised. But at the moment Delhi is apprehensive about Nepal going “Red”. Delhi’s hope that the Maoists, under Pushpa Kamal Dahal, are as trustworthy as the king or the Nepali Congress was in the past, has been belied. It is expected to “review” its policy sooner than later.

Maoist minister Janardan Sharma, who was stripped of the home affairs portfolio earlier but continues in the ministry, says that Deuba is still conspiring to “postpone” elections and continue in power indefinitely. While Deuba discounts these allegations, the visible tussle at the top along partisan lines appears as proof that the polls may not be “free and fair”. The international community, especially the US, UN and EU diplomatic missions, are demanding a role with more power than “observation”, as in the past. This has been resisted by the election commission.

The mutual distrust among the internal political actors and the fear of the international community about the fairness of the poll also appear to confirm some suspicions. The electoral prospects of the Left Alliance, which already controls some state instruments, may lead Nepal’s politics towards totalitarianism.

yubaraj.ghimire@expressindia.com

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    Krishna K C
    Oct 24, 2017 at 6:51 am
    The taunts and slanders do not enhance the India's status in the global order of power. A country can not be powerful and may not be respected in the comity of nations without taking its neighbour in confidence. The confidence can not be generated in terms of powerful neighbour.There are some emotional and sentimental Indian friends who want Nepal to comply with a particular ideological formation.These friends find all Nepali as China suckers whenever some differences appear with their emotional and unpragmatic notions . Even highly respected and revered academics like Pratap Mehta has warned Indian political class and policy makers to be seriously cautious while being strategic ally of the USA. Well India has to pay heed on different currents of opinion in Nepal.Yubaraj Ghimire is reporting and writing on pages of IE.Kanak on pages of The Hindu.Before making disparaging remarks on this page think Bhai there were Gurkha Regiments when Kargil and Drass happened .Even in Doklam .
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      Bharat
      Oct 26, 2017 at 11:59 pm
      Even highly respected and revered academics have warned the Nepali political class and policy makers to be seriously cautious while being strategic ally of totalitarian criminals in Beijing.
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        Bharat
        Oct 27, 2017 at 12:00 am
        Feckk off, you Nepali China sucker. Nobody in India is interested in you.
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      2. B
        Bharat
        Oct 24, 2017 at 3:22 am
        Feckk off, you Nepali China sucker. Nobody in India is interested in your stupid political bickerings.
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          Bharat
          Oct 24, 2017 at 3:19 am
          k off, you Nepali China sucker. Nobody in India is interested in your stupid political bickerings.
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          1. Krishna k c
            Oct 23, 2017 at 7:26 pm
            Nepal is on the eve of completing the process of implementing the new cons ution .Well the presence and advocacy of conspiracy theory at such a critical juncture is normal phenomenon for all developing countries. Even in the case of India it is said that Mani S Aiyar was removed /shifted from petrolium ministry under the duress of external forces. Even K Natwar Singh has conceded in his autobiography that certain foreign forces were against his external affair ministership.Nepal can not remain immune from this type of disease of conspiracy theory .Democracy is ambiguous and confusion term.If the credential of NC's to be measured in terms of internal democracy, it seems to be least democratic party in Nepal. It is operated under the whims of Koiralas and Deubas.Nepal cannot turn a red totalitarian state unless Nepal army fully backs them up. The ranks and files of army may understand the implications and consequences getting involved them in direct politics .
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              Bihari Krishna
              Oct 23, 2017 at 6:44 pm
              Given the extraordinary generosity shown by UML in attracting the Maoist Centre in the Left Alliance--a whopping 40 percent of the electoral seats to the new comer--the suspicion gains considerable credibility that an extraordinary force is making it happen. While all indications are that that force is certainly not India, the latter has only itself to blame, because this political culture of forging and breaking alliances between highly diverse parties has been brought to Nepal by India's schemers, ensuring that Nepal remains in a state of instability all the time . So, for once India seems itself in a pit it has dug itself in Nepal. This failure of India in Nepal also begs another question: If India fails with all their resources in a relatively tiny Himalayan country, how will India fare at the larger world stage? As a matter of fact the failure is already there for all to see. Despite the size of its economy and population, nobody takes India seriously at the world stage.
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                Bharat
                Oct 24, 2017 at 2:02 am
                "Despite the size of its economy and population, nobody takes India seriously at the world stage." It must rile you no end that the US Secretary of State Tillerson just declared India a crucial ally against China and is today on his way to India to sign important agreements. Your Chinese masters are very worried about the Indo-US alliance and their press has articles attacking it every day. Why do they do so if India does not count on the world stage? Why do you keep posting about India if it is unimportant? The oddest thing about Nepali thugs like you is that they keep claiming China is a whooping success unlike miserable India. but their statements are all about India, not China !
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                  Bihari Krishna
                  Oct 24, 2017 at 10:51 pm
                  Tillerson is coming to India to basically to recruit India as its foot soldier against China and also to ask it to help out US in Afghanistan which is not India's war at all. So, lately, they have been using words of flattery. But India should recall that not too long ago, China's leader, Xi was treated to a Maharaja welcome in Trump's Mar-e-logo resort soon after his swearing in. But Mr. Modi had to wait for months including foreign secretary Jaishankar expediting the invite. Even more grievous insult to India was on full display at the world stage when the "P5 plus 1" team (UN's five permanent members plus one) was put together to strike the nuclear deal with Iran. By any reckoning, the "plus one" slot should have gone to India, not Germany. The bottom line for India's respectability at world stage is that she must cease to remain home to world poverty and the key to do this is to work with China and not against it. Indians must be able to distinguish true respect from flattery.
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                    Bharat
                    Oct 27, 2017 at 12:03 am
                    Unplug, you o robot. Switch off time. The battery will get worn out.
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