Next Door Nepal: Waiting for a PM

With parliament blocked and polls stuck, Kathmandu looks adrift

Written by Yubaraj Ghimire | Published: May 29, 2017 1:26 am
nepal, nepal pm, nepal politics, nepal elections, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Prachanda, nepal news, indian express news Nepalese Prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal announced his resignation, in line with an agreement made with his coalition partner party, in Kathmandu, Nepal. (Source: AP Photo)

Several parallel and contradictory trends are clearly visible in Nepal’s politics, an area which has been a victim of a prolonged transition process and the resultant adhoc-ism over the years. Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda”, chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre, on Wednesday claimed that his resignation on the “successful completion” of the first phase of the local-level election, and in deference to his earlier commitment with the Nepali Congress, his coalition partner, amounts to injecting a “moral component, something long absent” from Nepali politics.

His act, partly in deference to his commitment, and partly tactical, with an eye to reap rich political dividends in the future, has earned him some positive mileage for now as a trustworthy politician. However, he will be judged more appropriately by how he conducts himself in the days and years to come. So far, Dahal’s personality consists of a mix of contradictory traits: A revolutionary in the past, a quiet “dealer” with domestic and external actors, a power-hungry politician and someone lacking consistency in his approaches.

If he sticks to the alliance with the current partner Nepali Congress into the future as well, and accepts the role of a junior partner in the coalition in a hung parliament, that will be the first proof of his having become honestly pragmatic.

That will, however, only be known in the coming week as the country is in the midst of an exercise to have a new prime minister elected through parliamentary majority, although there are signs of hurdles coming in the way, given the ongoing obstruction of parliament itself. Sher Bahadur Deuba, chairman of the Nepali Congress, is the joint candidate of the current coalition, but the Maoists, going by their past record, may insist on shares disproportionate to their size.

Nepal has set up a notorious record in establishing (un)parliamentary precedents over the transition period, dictated largely by the interests of a few leaders and their captive parties as well as parliament. President Bidhya Devi Bhandari unveiled government programmes and polices a day after Dahal had resigned, reducing the government to caretaker status, with the successor likely to take at least a week to emerge formally, provided that the opposition lifted the obstruction. Nepal’s constitution requires that only a parliament “in order” elects from the floor its leaders, preferably by consensus, failing which “a majority” becomes the deciding factor.

But Nepal’s politics has largely been about quiet deals between the parties in power and the opposition. And of late, it has also been about muscle-flexing and derailing the constitutional process and parliamentary sanctity. The main opposition — the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist — temporarily lifted the obstruction of the House to enable President Bhandari to read out the policy and programmes, possibly considering the fact that she belonged to the UML prior to her becoming head of the state, under a “quota”-based agreement among the key political parties.

Dahal, who initially wanted to announce his resignation after a speech in parliament last week, chose to do it through a nationally televised address as the opposition obstruction deprived him of the parliamentary forum. But a new leader or prime minister can only be elected by a parliament in order. What if the UML continues with its muscle-flexing? The UML and the current ruling coalition clash on many issues, including on conducting the second phase of local-level elections scheduled on June 14.

The UML, backed by the supreme court order, is opposed to any additional local bodies being created in four provinces slated for the second round of elections, something that the Dahal government decided on the eve of its departure, in order to “accommodate” Madhes-centric parties that had boycotted the polls during the first round.

“But we cannot hold the poll as planned if these alterations are to be made in the number,” an election commissioner says. The Madhes-centric Rashtriya Janata Party promptly announced obstructing the second phase of the polls in protest. A boycott, or disruption of the second phase of the poll, will not only be a setback to what Dahal claimed credit for, but will also bring the legitimacy of the election held in 283 local bodies in the phase, into question.

India, that had only “noted” but not “welcomed” the controversial, and apparently inadequate constitution promulgated so far, exhibited a slightly changed posture this time around as Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Dahal over the “successful conduct” of the local bodies poll. But with the legitimacy as well as the possibility of the poll mired in doubts, the main opposition blocking parliament, and the judiciary and parliament plus executive pitched in open battle, the state is not only appearing weaker, but may turn dysfunctional.

In short, there is no solution visible within the framework of the current constitution, but whether the muscle-flexing key parties will involve all other forces in giving the constitution an acceptable shape and size, is doubtful, given their rigid stance all along.

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  1. K
    kaliya dhoti
    May 31, 2017 at 6:01 am
    it's the fault of traitor Nepalese politicians that every kida makauda indian, who in mornings goes to find train tracks, now has the audacity to lecture, teach and preach Nepal about Nepal's cons ution. it's time Nepal stops giving value to altu-faltu indians or indian politicians. Time has come for Nepal to move forward. Nepal should do exactly what Sri Lanka did - bring in China and get rid of useless beggar indians who only know how to destroy.
    1. C
      May 30, 2017 at 12:03 am
      And Nepal slowly descends into chaos once more. This is only the start. Nepal will pay a heavy price for repeatedly thumbing its nose at India even though India has been its lifeline since time immemorial. The difference this time is that the Indian state now has a clear vision on what it wants to accomplish. Gone are the days of weak PMs who sat on the sidelines wringing their hands while China ate their lunch. Nepal will have to learn to respect its southern neighbour once more instead of fanning anti-India sentiment while expecting India to continue providing jobs and resources to its people. It's time to put Nepal in its place and teach the ingrates a long overdue lesson...
      1. K
        K. K.
        May 30, 2017 at 9:13 am
        India should not keep the boarders between Nepal and India open. The borders must be regulated and visa system imposed. Otherwise all your rant will remain meaningless
      2. B
        Bihari Krishna
        May 29, 2017 at 3:24 pm
        The root of the current problem has been of India's making. When Dahal or Deuba takes retrograde steps like departing from existing criteria for the appointment of the Police Chief, or awarding the ambassadorial positions to the highest bidders, or registering impeachment motion against the Chief Justice in parliament, they are not the ones who are blamed, it is Mr. Modi and his henchmen in Delhi who had made the evil move to dislodge highly popular KP Oli as PM and install these lampassarbaad (slavishness through prostration to India) politicians instead. But given ever stronger pro-China sentiment in Nepal and given that Mr. Prachanda knows he has to continue to live in Nepal, he was forced to sign the OBOR charter and send a high level delegation to Beijing. The point here is that the more India makes such nonsensical moves in Nepal, the angrier Nepalese look up to China. Time for India to make amends, and the first step just now could be to help restore normalcy in Tarai.
        1. K
          May 29, 2017 at 12:44 pm
          Indian role should be supportive rather than supporting quietly to Madhesi to incorporate its long term sikkimisation plan. Anti India fee s are high in the mind of Nepalese because of its interfering role as a result Nepal could not reap economic benefits of surrounding progress.
          1. M
            May 29, 2017 at 11:39 am
            Outgoing PM is "dealer" of anti-national acts. Why India has not welcomed the const-2016. The self declared and outdated actors of Nepalese matters such as Mr Shyam sharan and SDMuni of Sonia regime must answer. Foreign sec Mr S Jaishankar could not postponed the announcement date of const even for a week. Actually communists were loyal and listened to US-EU diplomats than India. Under their pressure they announced the controversial cons ution in hurry without resolving the madhes-terai issue as they promised. Indian diplomacy towards Nepal is failed one in past decade. There is no point in blaming China for extended influence in Nepal. It is unfortunate that current Indian govt carrying Sonia era failed diplomacy towards it's northern friend.
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