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Next door Nepal: A short-lived hope

Political instability looms again as communists and Maoists delay a merger

Written by Yubaraj Ghimire | Updated: December 30, 2017 1:11 am
nepal, nepal politics, communists, maoists, prasident bidhya devi bhandari, kathmandu, nepal rashtriya sabha, indian express Political instability looms again as communists and Maoists delay a merger (Representational/Files/Express Photo)

It took more than two months, and a public spat, before President Bidhya Devi Bhandari would sign the ordinance for the formation of the Rashtriya Sabha, the first upper house of the parliament. While the ordinance paves the way for the formation of the upper house on the basis of the “single transferable vote system” and clears the initial hurdle in forming parliament and the government under the new constitution, it does not guarantee that the implementation of the two-year-old constitution will be smooth.

Nepal’s 1991 constitution was a product of elaborate discussions among political parties, the king and constitutional experts. It contained all the core principles of constitutionalism, including a multi-party parliamentary democracy. It died an unnatural death in 2006. The 1991 constitution was a document of understanding reached by three sections representing different views of the public, the Nepali Congress, communists and the monarchy. It was the natural casualty when the Maoists, who argued for secularism and republicanism, came to the forefront of Nepali politics.

The 2017 constitution was a product of deliberations among the top leaders of three major parties — the Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre. The common people had little say in its preparation. These top leaders “whipped” their legislators to raise their hands in “aye” when the provisions of the constitution were taken up for voting and adoption in September 2017. Besides, two Madhes-based parties — the Federal Socialist Forum and Rastriya Janata Party, which have now acquired national party status on the basis of the current mandate — refused to recognise the constitution. Their reservations remain. The Nepali Congress and the UML, the two parties that were together at the time of the making of the constitution, have fallen out. President Bhandari felt compelled to endorse the ordinance following a warning from Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and his Nepali Congress that they would not proceed with any constitutional appointments and process otherwise.

The euphoria generated by the poll outcome is slowly vanishing. With the proposed merger of the UML and Maoists unlikely in the immediate future, the new 275-member parliament will be a divided house: The UML will be the largest party, followed by the Nepali Congress and the Maoists. The Madhes-based parties, the Forum and RJP, are fourth and fifth in terms of number of MPs. In the absence of any single party holding a majority, political instability is unlikely to end in the near future. The CPN Maoist-Centre may join the UML-led coalition, however, the party appears reluctant to merge with the UML. The Maoist leadership fears that its “revolutionary” agenda will be compromised in the event of a merger.

Political instability suits the international community fine. But animosity towards their role is palpable in the country. The government recently summoned the chief of UK aid agency DFID and warned that anti-national activities under the guise of developmental activities were unacceptable. The government is also cold to a move by the UN Resident Coordinator’s office to conduct a certain “social mapping”, which the authorities feel is beyond the mandate of the UN office.

The UN, European Union and DFID are not the only agencies likely to draw flak from the new government. India is fast losing influence in Nepal and China is gaining ground. This is likely to impact bilateral relations and power equations in the region. Most Indian ambassadors who served in Nepal during the years of transition and turmoil are worried over China’s larger presence and are asking New Delhi to regain its lost space. But no one seems to say how.

Prashant Jha writes in Hindustan Times that India had in 2015 asked Madhesi groups to promulgate their own constitution for an independent Madhes, implying that India supported Nepal’s division. With India’s popularity and influence at all-time low in Nepal, and with China emphasising that it respects Nepal’s integrity and sovereignty, this revelation is likely to generate more distrust towards India. Prakash Koirala, a former minister and perceptive political observer, argues that if the Indian bureaucracy has realised that its Nepal policy has brought China closer to Nepal, the political leadership in India must take a note of it and course correct.

Nepal’s transition to a federal republic is likely to be an expensive affair, with an estimated Rs 830 billion required to set up basic infrastructure. A non-delivering federalism may turn out to be the first challenge to the implementation of the constitution. Political instability may also allow the outside world to interfere. However, the main challenges post-election Nepal faces is whether the domestic actors will be able to strike the right balance between traditional and modern forces, and whether the constitutional authorities, including the president, can act in a fair and neutral manner and, of course, within the constitutional framework.

The trends are neither promising nor convincing.

yubaraj.ghimire@expressindia.com

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  1. Ishan Sanyal
    Dec 31, 2017 at 12:30 am
    We should invade Nepal and put a bullet into the skull of every single Communist and Maoist. That's the only way to make Nepal a truly independent nation.
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    1. Bihari Krishna Shrestha
      Dec 30, 2017 at 11:20 pm
      With all its neighbors in China's embrace now, India reportedly tried to drive wedge in Left Alliance through its RAW chief who, in his bid to prevent Oli from becoming PM again, reportedly got Nepal's No. 1 Lampassaarbadi, SB Dueba-- who just downgraded NC's position to No. 3 after the MC in FPTP election-- to try to lure Prachanda away with offer of PM-ship with necessary support from other parties clearly to be lined up by the sleuth. But Prachanda, despite his image as an opportunist, apparently turned it down at least for now that would now allow Mr. Oli to form the government. But Mr. Oli must use his tenure of uncertain length judiciously to focus on the following: Get China further entrenched in Nepal for accelerated development and as antidote to India's hegemony review Nepal's unworkable federalization project, and empower the people themselves at the grassroots by replicating Nepal's highly successful user-owned ins utions such as forest user groups across all sectors.
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      1. Ram Nath
        Dec 30, 2017 at 11:22 pm
        Bu-gger off you Chinese pimp.
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        1. Bihari Krishna Shrestha
          Jan 27, 2018 at 8:35 pm
          The reason China is preferable to India is because while China has zipped past India on its way to become another super power on this planet, India, with the colonial mindset bequeathed to the Indians by their British colonial masters, keeps itself busy in making sure that most of its own people--800 million of its total 1.3 million population--remain "impoverished and dispossessed" even after 70 years of independence even as their politicians and their obnoxious Babus does overtime in creating instability in the immediate neighbourhood including Nepal, probably this being the real meaning of Mr. Modi's Neighborhood First Policy, i.e. wrecking neighborhood first. But there are some Indians who also think. One such small community is the NiTI Ayog and they have all the time been arguing that India must work with China to achieve significant growth for the Indians. But clearly, that is not what the politicos and the reckless Babus want in India. God save India, God save Ram Nath.
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      2. Nikhil Chandra Das
        Dec 30, 2017 at 11:07 pm
        Whenever these Communists and Maoists shall be vanished from this earth. They have kicked out from whole except India and Nepal. These parasites and IS supporters have already destroyed Nepal and broken the backbone.
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        1. Dirgha Raj Prasai
          Dec 30, 2017 at 5:43 pm
          The article 'Political instability looms again as communists and Maoists delay a merger' by Yubaraj Ghimire has expressed all about the existing situation of Nepal. Since 2006 Nepalese people tolerated the worst political practice made by corrupt and culprit leaders. The nation achieved the climaxed height of the lawlessness, theft, robbery, ransom and murders. The corruption is out of control. A corrupt tendency has been ins utionalizing as a system. The Nepalese justice system has failed in practice. In every criminal case, police have still refusing to register the criminal Due to the naked intervention of India, Communists inviting anarchism Due to the culprit's regime, the government has failed to reform laws that impede effective criminal investigations into past violations. There is no justice in Nepal, no rule of law and no government. The ongoing leftist Govt, will be the cause of confrontation between China and India. Thank you Dirgha Raj Prasai Kathmandu
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          1. Ram Nath
            Dec 30, 2017 at 10:38 am
            k off, you Chinese pimp. Nobody is interested in your mother king little country.
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            1. Krishna Sharma
              Dec 30, 2017 at 7:11 pm
              New about Nepal in the Indian media, shows there are many in India that are interested. And sometimes unnecessarily also.
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              1. Ram Nath
                Dec 30, 2017 at 11:21 pm
                Bu-gger off, Chinese pimp.
                (1)(0)
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