Maoist Chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal was on Wednesday elected Prime Minister of Nepal, the eighth in as many years, making a come back to the post after a gap of over seven years.
A clear majority — 363 in favour and 210 against — brought to an end the latest round of transition following the resignation by K P Oli last week, just before facing a trial of strength in the House that he was sure to lose. Dahal — who said he would maintain balanced relations with the two neighbours, India and China — was greeted soon after his election by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, extending an invitation for an official visit soon. Chinese ambassador Wu Chuntai presented Dahal with a bouquet, assuring continued support and good will.
President Bidhya Devi Bhandari will be administering oath of office and secrecy to Dahal on Thursday. As negotiation among the major constituents — Maoists, Nepali Congress and Madhes centric Parties — continued over cabinet formation, there are indications that a small-sized cabinet with representation from all the parties may take place Thursday, and is likely to be expanded soon.
Dahal said he would continue to further the understandings and agreements that his predecessor Oli had signed with China, and maintain a balanced approach with both neighbours. As a balancing act, he may be undertaking his first official visit to India, in the near future. Speaking in favour of his motion that he be elected Prime Minister in the Parliament, Dahal said “as some one who raised guns, I feel I am the person that history has moved forward to work for this country.” Just before the parliament took up the election, leaders of the three parties — Maoists, Nepali Congress and Madhesi groups — signed a three-point agreement promising that the issues of Madhesis would be addressed with utmost sincerity, taking all sides together, and through constitutional amendment wherever necessary. But the votes that he secured on Wednesday does not guarantee a two third majority, something required for the amendment.
His takeover comes after a bitter fall-out between the two coalition partners in the previous government, led by Oli who vacated the official residence of the Prime Minister. In fact, his exit took place in a much grander way than his entry there nine months ago. Addressing his followers at his private residence, Oli said he transformed Nepal’s problems that came with being landlocked into a situation where it does not have to depend on one country alone. Oli was referring to the trade and transit agreement that he recently signed with China in the aftermath of a border blockade by India for five months since September last year.
Speaking to his supporters in response to criticism from different parties for his “unrealistic dream”, he said “I am not one who enjoys the death of a dream or attends its funeral procession. I believe in translating dream into reality,” said Oli. “When I took over, Nepal’s relationship with India was at its lowest ebb, but that is almost back on track now through diplomatic efforts,” he added.
He said the change of Prime Minister in a parliamentary democracy is not unusual, “but history will judge my exit the way it has happened.” The Nepali Congress, the largest party in Parliament will be the coalition partner in the Dahal-led cabinet.
Madhesi parties will not join the new government but will extend support from outside, a top Madhesi leader said