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Pot holes on the political road ahead in Kathmandu

CK Lal | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:49 IST
Story so far
  • PM Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli lost confidence of the majority in Parliament on 12 July
  • He will be replaced by Pushpa Kamal Dahal
  • A new government will also mean a change in India\'s rhetoric
More in the story
  • Oli\'s million fake promises
  • Why the task is going to be hard for the new government

In corroboration of the popular belief that perpetual uncertainty is the only certainty in the power politics of Nepal, Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli lost the confidence of the majority in Parliament on 12 July, when the newly rechristened Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) left the ruling coalition and decided to withdraw its support with immediate effect.

Just two days before being shown the door, Premier Oli had boasted that the cabinet was on the verge of being expanded rather than expelled from office.

He may have lost the moral authority to remain in office, but Premier Oli has refused to resign on legal grounds and has decided to seek the verdict of the parliament instead.

That will create hurdles for the formation of the new government, which may take several weeks.

The number is not the problem for a No Confidence motion to pass. The proposed Maoist-Nepali Congress coalition needs only ten additional votes from other parties to prove its majority on the floor of the house.

Madheshbadi parties have already declared that they are ready to support from outside without joining the government.

That should make the distribution of cabinet berth much easier for the Premier-in-waiting Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachand.

Power shift

The process of transfer of power could be problematic if CPN (UML) - the second largest party in the legislature - begins to search for legal loopholes to remain in government for as long as it can.

With almost complete control over the law, the media and the NGO fraternity, the UML can marshal enormous resources to create a cacophony in the name of "nationalism" - a tried and tested ploy of raising anti-India rhetoric - and whip up the chattering classes of Kathmandu against new claimants.

UML has almost complete control over law, media, NGOs and can make the right amount of noise

Another certainty of Nepalese politics is the predominance of court intrigues and conspiracies that often result with the sealing of numbered agreements.

The government of Premier Oli was the result of the 16-point settlement reached between the Nepali Congress, the UML, the Maoists, with the Madhesh-based outfit of pragmatic politico Bijaya Kumar Gacchedar bearing witness to the deal on 8 June, 2015 that had resulted in the promulgation of a contested constitution in September.

According to the deal, the office of the President should have gone to the Nepali Congress with UML getting to head the government and a Maoist-nominee chairing the legislature.

Also Read: India's spectacular policy failure in Nepal

The later part of the deal got implemented while NC was left wringing its hand. The deal died without settling constitutional issues.

The NC took a little long to retaliate, but it tried to hit back at UML with a nine-point agreement with the Maoists in May this year.

Dahal developed cold feet at the crucial moment, reportedly due to a glare of the Chinese glance, and the deal went dud. Premier Oli then signed a nine-point agreement with the Maoists to remain in office, perhaps with no intention of ever implementing any commitments.

Now there is yet another numbered document in the name of political commitments. Its future too doesn't look too certain. Change of government, however, is more than likely.

Tangled corrections

The Madheshis and the Janjatis have been agitating for amendments of certain basic features of the newly adopted constitution.

Issues such as the re-delineation of provincial boundaries, the creation of population-based constituencies, and demarcation of the third level of government require broad-based political consensus.

The new power-sharing deal fails to create such conditions.

The new seven-point deal, said to have been reached between the NC and the Maoists on 11 July, envisions addressing grievances of Madheshis, Janjatis and Dalits.

Amendment of the statute, however, requires a two-third majority of the house.

The support of the UML is crucial for any such move, which it is unlikely to extend to the coalition of its political opponents.

Governance too is unlikely to improve. Even though Premier Oli was in office for only about nine months, he has succeeded in packing the entire government machinery with UML loyalists.

It will be extremely difficult for the new government to make an apparatus with oppositional political loyalty function in an effective manner.

Issues within

The propaganda value of Premier Oli's airy-fairy plans will continue to haunt as well.

Habitually high on steroids, Premier Oli promised to supply piped gas to every household, connect Lumbini with Lhasa by rail, send Nepalese satellite into outer space, and sail Nepalese ship on the high seas if only his "nationalist" government was allowed to remain in power for an indefinite period.

His most recent hare-brained scheme was to import coal from China and turn it into petrol to sell in Nepal!

With no Premier Oli to keep them entertained, miseries of everyday life in Nepal will make the term of any new government extremely challenging.

With no Oli to keep them entertained, miseries of everydays in Nepal will becomes more stark

Power outages even during the monsoon often last longer than seven to eight hours a day. The water supply of indifferent quality is meagre and irregular even in the capital city Kathmandu. Inflation runs in double digits. Public education is in shambles. There is no public health service to speak of.

The only saving grace for Dahal - once better known by his nom de guerre Prachand - is that he will have to survive only for about nine to ten months in office and then hand over the reins of government to NC leader Sher Bahadur Deuba according to conditions of the seven-point settlement.

Hope rekindled

Ouster of Premier Oli is likely to be greeted with cautious optimism in Madhesh where close to five dozen protestors were killed by the security forces last year which led to border blockages and disruption of essential supplies from India.

The new government may not be able to do much to address Madheshi concerns, but it will at least pay lip service.

Also Read: Nepal: India's emasculated responses have emboldened KP Oli

Premier Oli and some of his cabinet colleagues used to take sadistic pleasure in taunting protesters.

A new government may also raise hopes of international investors.

The oligarchy under Premier Oli was so enmeshed with shady plutocrats, cartel bosses, syndicate operators and other riffraff of all kinds that prospective businesses often looked around and quietly left.

In polite conversations, the difficulty of working under "communist" dispensation was often mentioned.

The real reason, however, may have been the preponderance of lumpen bourgeoisie under the oligarchy.

A new government in Kathmandu will imply the end of PM Modi's appeasement policies

In diplomatic terms, the formation of a new government in Kathmandu will imply the end of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeasement policies under which the PEON and the Hindutva elements had been given so much latitude that they sometimes eulogised China merely to slight the Indian establishment.

The exercise of sovereignty will probably begin to return to normalcy.

Economic implications of the change of guards at Singh Durbar are often negligible.

If the new government can begin reconstruction works of damages done by Gorkha Earthquake, that itself will be enough justification for the ouster of an opportunistic coalition of Stalinists, monarchists and Maoists.

Long list of sins

The list of sins of omission and commission of the government of Premier Oli is long, but if only one of it were chosen to be the epitaph of his term, it should be the criminal negligence of the plight of survivors of Gorkha Earthquakes throughout his term in office.

With a smirk on his face and barb on his lips, Premier Oli sailed through his term without a care in the world for the damage he was doing to the social fabric of the nation.

Good riddance, the absence of the clown from the stage will not be missed by the exasperated audience.

Also Read: Buddha in a diplomatic jam: Nepal-China take on India over Buddhist heritage

Also Read: 15 point open letter to Modi from an angry Nepali

Also Read: Nepal must act to resolve the Madhesi crisis. And act fast

First published: 13 July 2016, 7:33 IST
CK Lal @CatchNews

The writer is a noted journalist and political columnist from Nepal.