Nepal Prime Minister K P Oli’s remark that his political rivals are conspiring with India to remove him from office is ill-judged and misleading. In Kathmandu, senior leaders of the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN), including former prime ministers Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhalnath Khanal, and former deputy PM Bamdev Gautam, have demanded that Oli quit office over the remarks. Oli, who is also the CPN chief, appears isolated within the party, and may not find the going easy. His attempt to drag India into Nepal’s internal politics, rooted in power rivalries within the CPN, has been rightly criticised at home. Prachanda described Oli’s remarks as “neither politically correct, nor diplomatically appropriate”, and warned that the statement “may damage our relations with the neighbour”.
Oli has consistently maintained an anti-India stance — it facilitated his rise in politics. As the leader of Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), he was the face of the anti-India protests that rocked Nepal following the 2015 border blockade. It helped him gain the upper hand when the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoists led by Prachanda fought the 2017 elections together and thereafter merged to form the CPN. Oli has since been accused of consolidating power, both in government and party, while taking Nepal away from India and closer to China. The merger failed to resolve the long-standing rivalry between the two CPN groups and the contradictions are now manifest in the factional fight within the party. Even the reported attempts by the Chinese Communist Party leadership to mediate peace among the CPN factions have not succeeded. Meanwhile, Oli sought to tap into anti-India sentiment in sections of Nepal society to whip up a nationalist fervour, and contain the challenge to his leadership. The recent cartographic challenge to India — Nepal’s Parliament has passed a Constitution Amendment Bill that endorses a new map which includes Indian territory — was as much Oli’s attempt to foreground his nationalist credentials and consolidate ground within the CPN.
The latest developments suggest that Oli may have overplayed his anti-India card by accusing party colleagues of conspiring with a foreign power to topple the government. Prachanda and others may not want their nationalist credentials questioned in a climate of hyper-nationalism. There is little for India to do in this war of words, but wait for Nepal’s leaders to settle their disagreements.
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