As KP Oli prorogues Parliament in bid to hang on to power, a look at how Nepal PM finds himself in this position

Nepal's domestic politics is in some ways comparable to Bihar's internal politics: There are no permanent enemies and no permanent friends

FP Staff July 03, 2020 13:45:00 IST
As KP Oli prorogues Parliament in bid to hang on to power, a look at how Nepal PM finds himself in this position

"Look at the meetings being organised in India against Nepal's decision to amend the Constitution to place the revised map of the country in the national emblem," said Nepal's prime minister KP Sharma Oli at a gathering at his official residence in Kathmandu last Sunday. "When in peril, blame India", it would appear, steadfastly remains the motto of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) leader, who on Thursday prorogued the ongoing Budget Session of Parliament.

Apart from his remark above quoted in The Hindu, Oli also claimed that there have been various kinds of activities in the "embassies and hotels" to remove him from power. He said some Nepalese leaders were also involved in the game. Flash-back four years and it was in July 2016 that that Oli had resigned as prime minister just in time to avoid a no-confidence vote ⁠— something he dubbed a conspiracy by "foreign elements" to turn the country into a "laboratory" and obstruct the implementation of the new Constitution of Nepal.

What's led to this situation?

That Oli isn't considered the biggest fan of India is well-known and equally well documented. It may be recalled that it was only over a month ago that the prime minister took his 'Simhaeva jayate' and 'India virus' digs at India. Now with his latest remarks, it's clear that Oli appears to be an extremely worried man. And rightly so. As this article points out, problems range from the political (bitter power struggle within the NCP, corruption and malpractices to "enforcing draconian measures to curb civil rights and liberties, including an attempt to kidnap a Member of Parliament from another party") to the economic (where large allocations to certain sectors have been under-spent, the government has only raised 55 percent of its revenue target and the coronavirus-related slowdown has crippled the economy).

Thursday's move to prorogue Parliament likely stems from the fear of a no-confidence motion — something he just about avoided four years ago — being brought by a group that includes (if not overtly led by) former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda).

No permanent friends, no permanent enemies

Nepal's domestic politics is in some ways comparable to Bihar's internal politics (it's a different matter entirely that the latter has over three times the population of the former): There are no permanent enemies and no permanent friends. The relationship between Nitish Kumar's JD(U) and the BJP in Bihar has been as ever-changing as that between Oli and Prachanda. A brief look at the recent history of Nepali national politics bears out this comparison.

In 2016, it was the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Prachanda-led CPN-Maoist Centre that came to the brink of bringing down Oli's CPN-Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) government before the then-incumbent swiftly resigned in order, presumably, to avoid the ignominy of being shown the door after a no-confidence motion. The NC and CPN-Maoist Centre then joined forces to form government with Prachanda splitting the term as prime minister with Sher Bahadur Deuba.

Two years later, the country held a historic parliamentary election. This, according to reports, had been preceded some months prior by an agreement between the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist Centre (a party that was still very much in power at the time) to contest upcoming polls — both parliamentary and provincial — jointly. The two parties came together to form the NCP and won a massive 174 seats in the 275-member Parliament. It was decided at the time that Oli and Prachanda would share the leadership of the party, as well as the post of prime minister.

On Tuesday, apart from Prachanda, a host of senior party leaders including Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal, Bamdev Gautam and Narayan Kaji Shrestha, along with 11 other Standing Committee members demanded Oli's resignation from government and party.

Meanwhile, the prime minister is said to be taking a number of steps to ensure that the sun doesn't in fact set on his second term as prime minister. He is reportedly considering pushing through an Ordinance to Political Parties Act in order to ease the way for him to split the party. Flanked by his supporters, Oli also went to meet Prachanda and iron out their differences. At the same time, Oli has also registered a new party under the name 'UML' in case of a party split. Perhaps most unsurprisingly (in the world of Nepal politics at least), The Kathmandu Post reports that he also reached out to the NC — now the main party in Nepal — for a partnership in case his government falls in the minority. It also reports that the NC is amenable to supporting Oli, but not forming government.

So, to summarise:

2016: NC and Prachanda versus Oli
2018: Prachanda and Oli versus NC
2020: Oli and NC versus Prachanda?

Amidst speculation of the impending third phase of this bizarre mix-and-match, the NCP's Standing Committee meeting that began last week is still underway. But with 30 of 44 committee members demanding the prime minister's resignation, Oli appears set to demit office unceremoniously for the second time. Or he could even strike a sensational deal and cling on to power. After all, stranger things have happened in the country's politics.

With inputs from PTI

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