Updated: December 21, 2020 8:22:24 am
Triggering protests and the resignations of at least seven Cabinet-rank ministers, Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli Sunday dissolved the country’s House of Representatives, which is the lower house of Parliament, two years short of its five-year tenure following months of bickering among factions within the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP).
With legal experts and political leaders slamming the move as “unconstitutional”, several petitions were filed before the Supreme Court within hours of the House dissolution.
The decision was taken at a Cabinet meeting in Oli’s residence after the failure of talks with ruling party co-chairman and dissident leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda. President Bidhya Devi Bhandari approved the move after a no-trust motion was tabled by 91 Parliamentarians of the NCP, signalling that the eight-month internal tussle had reached a point of no return.
Oli secured Cabinet approval for the dissolution hours after his first meeting of the day with the President. A communique from the President’s office said that a general election will be held in two phases, on April 30 and May 10 next year.
Senior NCP leaders said the dissolution will “lead to expulsions and counter-expulsions” in the party followed possibly by a split.
The seven ministers who quit in a “collective” decision, including those who tried to resolve the internal differences, called the dissolution “an unconstitutional and undemocratic act”.
The NCP Parliamentarians had submitted notice for a no-trust motion to replace Oli with Prachanda — as per a mandatory provision to suggest an alternative — but minutes later, the Prime Minister recommended dissolution, said Pampha Bhusal, a former minister and one of the signatories to the motion.
The dissolution sparked protests on the streets by the NCP dissident camp and the main Opposition Nepali Congress with slogans being shouted against the President and the Prime Minister. Oli, who will continue as caretaker Prime Minister, held an emergency meeting with the National Security Council and gave “strict instructions” to maintain law and order.
The lower house, with 275 members, was elected in 2017. “It’s a coup on the constitution by the executive head,” said Dr Bhimarjun Acharya, noted constitutional lawyer.
Senior NCP leader and former prime minister Jhalnath Khanal said Oli “will pay the price for taking this extreme and unconstitutional act”. Bamdev Gautam, Oli’s colleague who attempted a patch-up Saturday, said the decision “deserves all condemnation”.
Sources attributed the latest crisis to Oli’s loss of majority in key sections of the ruling party: central secretariat, standing committee and the central committee. The 43-member standing committee was earlier scheduled to discuss on Sunday afternoon a 19-page “political resolution” submitted by Prachanda listing serious charges of corruption and nepotism.
Opposition MPs, meanwhile, had been considering an impeachment motion against the President. The Nepali Congress held a meeting of its central office bearers and decided that it would coordinate with other opposition parties to fight “this conspiracy hatched…to derail the constitution”.
Prior to the dissolution, Oli had filled 45 vacant posts in 13 constitutional commissions under a controversial newly promulgated ordinance that empowers the Prime Minister to recommend such appointments with the support of just one member in the six-member constitutional council — one council post is currently vacant.
The move effectively brings these key commissions under the Prime Minister’s control.
In India, the latest political twist is being tracked with keen interest, especially after Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla visited Kathmandu and met Oli last month in the first high-level diplomatic visit to the country since the slide in ties after the boundary row this summer.
India’s inauguration of a new road from Dharchula to Lipulekh on the Mansarovar Yatra route in May had angered the Oli government, which came out with a new map of Nepal, adding to it an area of 370 sq km at the tri-junction of Nepal, India and China (Tibet), which India maintains is its territory.
A Constitution amendment Bill was passed by Nepal’s parliament to legitimise the alteration to the country’s map with the addition of Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura. The passage of the Bill and the new map led to breakdown of communication between the two countries.
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