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Oli out, Prachanda said to be next PM. Will Indo-Nepal relations improve?

Sadiq Naqvi | Updated on: 25 July 2016, 22:51 IST

KP Sharma Oli, hugely unpopular and known for courting one controversy after the other - especially targeting India - has resigned as the prime minister of Nepal.

The eighth prime minister since Nepal embraced democracy in 2008, Oli has had a tumultuous tenure, marked by political flip-flops, and a desire to cling to power. This was despite clear indications that the alliance he had cobbled together had had enough and was looking for a change.

Also read - 100 days of Oli-garchy: Nepal PM's joke is on the people

Even after his resignations, Oli was reportedly eying the slot of the caretaker PM till the next prime minister took charge. But his plans were shattered when President Bidya Devi Bhandari said that a consensus government would be formed within a week as per the Article 298 (2) of the Constitution of Nepal.

Prior to this she had held consultations with top leaders of three political parties including CPN-UML Chairman Oli, Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba and CPN (Maoist Centre) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda'.

CPN (Maoist Centre) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' is expected to head the next govt

With the main allies of the coalition the CPN (Maoist Centre), CPN United and the Nepali Congress coming together with a combined strength of 292 members in the 598-member Constituent Assembly - against Oli's party's 175 members - his exit was imminent.

Now, Prachanda is expected to head the next government after his party was able to sign a deal with the Nepali Congress. The new government may also have the support of the Madhesis.

But before the Maoists pulled the plug, Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), the royalist party and Bijay Gachchedar's MJAF(D) including Tharus and Madhesis walked out of the coalition.

Why was Oli so unpopular?

Once a close ally of India, Oli changed his stance as soon as he came to power. In a turn of posturing, he started cosying up to the Nepalese elite, alienating other groups - particularly the Madhesis, including the Janjatis and the Dalits.

His invocation of ultra-nationalism, many analysts believed could lead to more fissures in the Nepalese society. Madhesis, account for about 51% of the Nepalese population and have been fighting a battle for more representation under the new Constitution. The Madhesis accuse Oli of going back on his word to their demands and say that the amendments being brought in to the constitution do not address their demands.

Their major demand of proportional representation in parliament and proportional inclusion of marginalised communities along with others are yet to be addressed.

The 31-party Federal Alliance formed by the Madhesis, has been agitating against the government.

It was the Madhesi agitation and Oli's reluctance to accommodate them which initially started the rift with the Indian government. Wary, that the agitation may spill over to the other side of the border, India has been pushing that Nepalese government heed to the demands of the people of the Terai.

Oli, meanwhile decided to cosy up to China,when supplies from India to the hill nation were blocked during the

Oli, meanwhile decided to cosy up to China,when supplies from India to the hill nation were blocked during the agitation. He blamed India for the blockade even as he cut deals to supply petroleum and other essentials with the Chinese.

Things came to a head, when in May, Oli decided to recall the Nepalese envoy to New Delhi, Deep Kumar Upadhayay, saying he was working against the interests of the country. Upadhaya, a leader of the Nepali Congress, was recalled even as Oli, in another drastic move, cancelled the visit of President Bhandari, who was scheduled to visit New Delhi on 9 May. Oli suspected India of trying to orchestrate a regime change. Even in his two-hour long speech in the Constituent Assembly, Oli called the no-confidence motion democratic in form but conspiratorial in essence.

Prachanda's role

The head of the Maoists, Prachanda, who was initially happy being part of the extreme coalition - a mixture of ultra left and ultra right - grew restless once he found Oli reluctant to heed to their demand on the trial of Maoists involved in the civil war. Prachanda's party wanted a truth and reconciliation commission to deal with those cases, something Oli dragged his feet on.

Interestingly, Prachanda was close to walking out of the coalition in May. However, that plan was thwarted after both communist factions reportedly struck a deal at the insistence of Beijing. As per reports, Oli was to hand the reigns over to Prachanda after the Budget.

Meanwhile, now that the Maoists and the Nepalese Congress have a power-sharing deal, with Prachanda poised to take over as the next prime minister, India can breathe easy.

Prachanda also has another big task at hand - to accommodate the Madhesis

However, it needs to be wary of a leader who has not been reluctant to openly blame India for the happenings in Nepal in the past. Like a former ambassador put it, "We can only hope that he will be different this time."

Moreover, there are bigger challenges internally. Oli had come under severe criticism for his laxity on the post-earthquake reconstruction.

Prachanda also has another big task at hand - to accommodate the Madhesis. Sadbhawana Party Co-Chairman Laxman Lal Karna, speaking to media after Oli's resignation has made it clear that the Federal Alliance would not support the new government unless the two major parties give it in writing that they will address the demands. "Unless we get a written commitment to address our demands, we will not cast our votes in the Prime Minister's election," a local daily reported quoting Karna. Building a consensus on these issues in the Constituent Assembly won't be easy.

More in Catch - KP Sharma Oli: why Nepal's new PM isn't the right man for the job

Nepal: India's emasculated responses have emboldened KP Oli

First published: 25 July 2016, 22:51 IST