AS NEPAL’S Communist alliance swept to power in elections to the federal and provincial Parliament after winning 110 seats, bringing moderate Left leader K P Oli back to power as the republic’s new Prime Minister, India refused to react to the Himalayan political earthquake, leaving it to RSS leader Ram Madhav to speak for New Delhi.
“My congratulations to the people of Nepal and to K P Oli, who has led the Left alliance to victory,” Madhav told The Indian Express on Monday. “Through my long-time personal relationship with Mr Oli, I know that the relationship between India and Nepal will only grow deeper and stronger.”
Oli’s United Marxist Leninist (UML) party had won 76 seats, and was leading in five seats, in a federal Parliament of 275 members (165 from direct contests and 110 from proportional representation). The Maoists won 34 seats and were leading in two.
The Nepali Congress won only 21 seats.
Oli’s return can be seen as a loss of face for India’s Nepal policy, as New Delhi had sought to bring Madhesis into the mainstream by unofficially supporting a six-month blockade of the Terai region. Oli led the protest against the Indian blockade — and against the Madhesis. He used the card of Indian interference in its sovereignty to move away from India —and towards China.
Soon after he became Prime Minister in October 2015, Oli decided to diversify Nepal’s dependence on Indian fuel, medicines and other commodities by signing an agreement to purchase one-third of the landlocked country’s petroleum needs from China. Both Kathmandu and Delhi knew that it was practically impossible to implement such a trade deal, considering 65 per cent of its trade passes through Nepal’s.
But leaders of both countries also realised that Oli was making a political point by turning away from from New Delhi, and towards Beijing.
While India criticised Oli and began to throw its weight behind a Maoist alliance led by Prachanda and Nepali Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba, the Nepali Congress has been routed in these elections.
On the eve of this election, India made a decision to stop the turning tide, and when Oli and Prachanda got together in a power-sharing agreement, the writing on the wall was clear: the Nepali Congress and the Madhesi parties would have to wait to fight another day.
Senior Indian leaders, including Ram Madhav, had rushed to Nepal to assuage the fraught relationship between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and K P Oli, whose aides complained that he never got access to Modi and were being forced to be satisfied by meeting senior Indian officials.