What next in Nepal?

Published On: December 30, 2020 07:00 AM NPT By: Suraj K Shrestha

Suraj K Shrestha

Suraj K Shrestha

The contributor for Republica.

If the Supreme Court reinstates the House, state of emergency will be declared.  Oli then may join hands with pro-monarchy forces which have been demanding constitutional monarchy and a Hindu state.

President Bidhya Devi Bhandari dissolved the House of Representatives on December 20 on recommendation of Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli and announced mid-term general elections for April-May 2021.

Nepal Communist Party’s co- chairman and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal and other leaders like Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal have strongly stood against this decision and are in the street protests. Dahal faction has appointed Nepal as the second chairman of the party replacing Oli. They also expelled Oli from the party. Oli has been leading his faction and appointed new ministers in place of the positions vacated by the leaders of Dahal-Nepal faction.

NCP was born of a merger between CPN-UML and Maoist Center led by Oli and Dahal respectively.  Though both are communist parties they have different background. UML has long been in the multi-party democratic system. Maoist Center emerged from a decade long insurgency which resulted in deaths of 17000 Nepali people. They entered the mainstream after through 12-point agreement with UML and Nepali Congress.

Until the last general elections in 2017, UML, Maoist Center and Congress were forming coalition governments one after another. In 2017, UML and Maoist Center formed an alliance promising stability and development. People were tired of political instability. They therefore approved this alliance and their development agenda strongly giving them nearly two-thirds majority.  The two parties became one after the election but many critics believe that this unity was unnatural. Many doubted the unity would endure.

Soon the rift occurred in NCP.  Madhav Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal stood by Dahal accusing Oli of running the government without consulting the party. They seemed to be conspiring to oust Oli from the government and the party chairmanship as well. Dahal also accused Oli of not respecting the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ of sharing prime ministership with him for two and half-years.

Dahal is a clever and dynamic leader. He has the track record of building and breaking alliances. He spoke of republicanism, secularism and federalism as the achievements of insurgency which he led. After the merger, nevertheless, he was shadowed by Oli. He was looking for an opportunity to dethrone Oli from the post of prime minister. He stayed silent despite being sidelined and waited for Oli’s popularity to decline.

Oli was popular for the first few months. People liked him for the strong stand he took against the 2015 Indian blockade on Nepal. But as he failed to deliver on development, control corruption and handle the Covid-19 crisis properly, he lost his popularity.

This was the right moment for Dahal to go against Oli. With Nepal and Khanala on his side, it was easier this time. An enemy of the enemy is a friend, goes the saying. Khanal and Nepal joined the bandwagon with Dahal to throw Oli out, for which they had a comfortable majority in the party. They seem to have pushed Oli too far into the corner, leaving him with no option but either resign or dissolve the parliament. Power-hungry, Oli chose the second option. He used President Bhandari to achieve his goal.

PM Oli has led the country to a big crisis but I don’t blame only Oli for the current crisis.  Dahal is equally responsible. After the House dissolution, people are divided in support of and against the move. President Bhandari has been heavily criticised. Critics have likened the step with Girija Prasad Koirala’s decision to dissolve the House in 1994. Many think that PM’s move will weaken democracy and republic.

We are yet to see how the dissolution crisis unfolds. We need to wait for Supreme Court’s verdict. But it is obvious that India, China, EU and the US have their vested interests in Nepal. Among them, India has been influencing Nepal’s political events strongly. China also has taken more interests in Nepal’s political events in recent days.

So what will happen next? I see the following possibilities.

Four possibilities  

First, on China’s urge, Oli and Dahal will resume dialogue and come to an agreement to stay united. Oli may withdraw the dissolution decision, provided it is constitutionally still possible to do so. He then will remain the PM and Dahal will become the party’s chairman. This is a least likely option.

Second, Supreme Court will reinstate the House of Representatives. In that case, Oli will be removed through vote of no-confidence. Nepal Communist Party will split officially. Most likely, Dahal will become a coalition government prime minister with the support of Nepali Congress and other parties. Sher Bahadur Deuba or Madhav Nepal may also compete to become the PM. Dahal may want to be seen as a king maker in this process. He may want to give people an impression that he did not go against Oli to become the PM but for the good of the country.

Third, right after the Supreme Court reinstates the House, state of emergency will be declared and Nepal Army will be deployed before the vote of no-confidence against Oli is registered.  Oli then may join hands with pro-monarchy forces which have been demanding constitutional monarchy and a Hindu state. If Modi government gives green signal, then this faction will reinstate the 1990’s constitution and federalism will be abolished. If this happens, an interim national government will be formed which Oli will lead. Nepali Congress may also support this move. Or Congress may split over Hindu state and monarchy. Even Madhesh-based parties and Biplav’s party may come onboard. The elections will take place to reinstate multi-party parliamentary democracy with constitutional monarchy.

Fourth, Supreme Court will uphold the House dissolution and parties will then go to elections. Nepali Congress may secure the majority or become the largest party. Deuba will become the PM again. But this government won’t be able to serve full term due to infighting in Congress.  If it is a coalition, the cycle of political instability will continue.

Dahal-Nepal led party will lose heavily in the election and Oli led party will retain some good presence in the House of Representatives.  In that case, Dahal may again approach Oli. There is no permanent friend or enemy in politics.

None of the above options will guarantee the wellbeing of Nepali people. People will then be sick of political system, bad governance and power-hungry politicians again in the next decade. The youth, in particular, will then emerge collectively against the system. A big peaceful revolution may take place. This revolution may take Nepal into directly-elected presidential system under the leadership of a completely new, charismatic and a visionary youth leader, who will then become the president of the country.

Despite disappointments, people will still hope for a peaceful change, political stability and better future.

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