When Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s Communist Party of Nepal (UML) and its alliance partners came to power in 2017 with a huge majority, many hoped that it would be a new beginning. Nepal has been in a painful transition from a monarchy to republican democracy. But it is in turmoil again after Oli decided to get the Parliament dissolved one year ahead. ON Sunday in a surprise move, he decided to go for election in April- May next year. 

Dissolution of the House is not new in Nepal, but this is the first such instance after the new Constitution of 2015 that places safeguards against dissolution. He claims that this was the only way to resolve disputes and non-cooperation in his party that led to a “ state of inaction”. This controversial decision has led to more than a dozen petitions in Nepal. Courts. 

The Nepal Communist Party was formed less than three years ago with the merger of PM Oli-led Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist) and his rival Pushpa Kamal Dahal known as Prachanda’s Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre. There is a power struggle between two powerful leaders. Prachanda has accused Oli of violating their power-sharing pact in 2018. Oli’s way of getting back at his rival is a dissolution of Parliament! He claims that the Prachanda faction tried to bring a no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister. Oli has lost support within his Nepal Communist Party in the past few months. President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, a confidant of Oli, quickly dissolved the Parliament. The opposition slammed the dissolution and the Prachanda faction 

The Nepal Communist Party was formed less than three years ago with the merger of PM Oli-led Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist) and his rival Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda’s Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre. 

Former Jawaharlal University professor S.D.Muni, a Nepal expert tweeted that Oli’s decision is “to perpetuate himself in power will not only fragment and polarise Nepali polity but also destroy his future and ambitions. Wonder if he is planning to have an alliance with feudal forces?”

New Delhi and Beijing are worried about the instability in their backyard. New Delhi has more at stake especially when there is some thaw in the strained Indo – Nepal ties on territorial ties. 

Beijing has been playing a role through its envoy Hou Yanqi’s who has been meeting the leaders of the two factions to patch up. Beijing has indicated that it wasn’t averse to a change of prime minister if it keeps the communist party intact Katmandu Post reported. Now it is playing the mediator to avoid split/ 

 Economists have expressed concern about the sliding economy of Nepal. The country is yet to come out of the Covid 19. Holding elections will add to the stress. According to a study conducted by the Election Observation Committee, Nepal (EOC-Nepal), a total of Rs 13.16 billion was spent on elections of the three-tier governments held in 2017. 

China has been a big factor in Nepal’s internal politics since 2006. China has also invested in crucial sectors like trade and investment, energy, tourism, and post-earthquake reconstruction, and is Nepal’s biggest FDI contributor. According to a report in The Kathmandu Post, over the past, many months, China, and most importantly Hou, played a crucial role in preventing a split. Hou has assured Prachanda that Bejing will walk with him. Beijing’s main goal now seems to be to ensure a Communist government. 

The Prime Minister has lost an opportunity to navigate Nepal’s young democracy; Oli has blamed India and an international conspiracy to destabilize him. He claimed that he “was victimized for enhancing national pride by publishing a map with the inclusion of Kalapani and Lipulekh”. Anti India rhetoric has been an important note of Oli’s nationalistic campaign. Some Nepal watchers blame the Constitution, the high cost of holding polls. They argue for direct elections and a fixed term for a prime minister.

New Delhi has been keeping a close watch on Nepal and cautiously commented that the crisis was an internal matter. Ties with Nepal are critical to India for strategic reasons. It is a buffer between India and China. After months of coldness, New Delhi and Kathmandu have been trying to bring back the ties to normal. In the past three months, there have been high-level visits including that of the Army Chief Manoj Mukund Naravane, R&AW Chief Samant Goel, and the Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla. 

However, given the political turmoil that looms over Nepal, India should adopt a strategy of detached pragmatism rather than proactive involvement, which it had been adopting. Instability in the neighborhood is indeed a cause for concern. 

There are visible and invisible reasons for the current political instability. Further developments in Nepal include the possible split in the ruling Communist Party. The Prachanda-led faction had decided to replace Oli as the NCP’s co-chairman with Madhav Nepal. The next few months will be unpredictable.

Kalyani Shankar is a Delhi- based political commentator and currently consulting editor of the web portal "The Print" as also a syndicated columnist. She is a senior journalist, political analyst and a keen observer of Indo-US relations.

Leave a Reply