Opinion: Big blow to Oli in Nepal’s presidential election, political equation changed in favor of India

Opinion: Big blow to Oli in Nepal’s presidential election, political equation changed in favor of India

Dr. Mahendra Kumar Singh: The rapidly changing political developments in Nepal in the past days raise serious questions on the democratic system in the neighboring country. At the same time, from a diplomatic point of view, they are seen going in favor of India. Amidst the changing political equation, senior Nepali Congress leader Ramchandra Paudyal has won the presidential election in Nepal with a huge margin. Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, the Prime Minister of Nepal and head of the Communist Party of Nepal, supported senior Nepali Congress leader Ramchandra Paudyal in this election. On the other hand, KP Sharma Oli’s party Communist Party of Nepal candidate Subhash Nemwang had to face defeat. While this election result is a blow to KP Oli, it is like a big victory for Nepali Congress chief Sher Bahadur Deuba and PM Prachanda.

In the elections to the Federal House of Representatives held in Nepal about two months ago, a coalition full of contradictions was formed keeping ideology aside. Sher Bahadur Deuba’s Nepali Congress and Prachanda’s CPN-Maoist Center contested the election. The Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), Rashtriya Swatantra Party (RSP) led by KP Sharma’s party Communist Party of Nepal contested against this alliance. Deuba’s Nepali Congress emerged as the single largest party winning 89 seats, while Prachanda’s CPN-Maoist Center won only 32 seats. Whereas Oli’s CPN-UML won 78 seats.
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Political upheaval happened in Nepal like this

Neither of the two ‘unnatural’ alliances got a decisive majority and politics of manipulations again started in Nepal. Prachanda and Oli, who contested against each other, came together and formed the government. Both Nepali left parties came together. Meanwhile, after the announcement of the presidential election, as soon as Prachanda talked about supporting the Nepali Congress candidate instead of his alliance, all the circumstances changed. Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), Rashtriya Swatantra Party (RSP) and CPN-UML have deserted the Prachanda government. Prachanda now joined hands with the Nepali Congress and other parties. The presidential election results were the first test of Prachanda and Deuba’s joint government, in which they were successful.

Political instability and mismatch of political parties have emerged as the biggest challenge to democracy in Nepal. The neighboring country ended its 239-year monarchy in 2008 and became a republic, since then 11 governments have been formed there. Whereas in the last 15 years about a dozen Prime Ministers have been elected. BP Koirala from Nepali Congress once, Sushil Koirala once and Sher Bahadur Deuba twice as Prime Minister. Prachanda thrice and Baburam Bhattarai once as prime minister from the CPN-Maoist Centre. Madhav Nepal once, Jhalnath Khanal once and KP Oli twice from CPN-UML. Apart from this, in 2013, the Chief Justice has also held the post of acting Prime Minister.
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Role of the President in Nepal

Since the abolition of monarchy in Nepal, the President has replaced the King as head of state. The office of president in democratic republics has traditionally been largely ceremonial. But the president has been politically active in recent years. The post of the President has been proving important for fulfilling the political ambitions of all the three major parties of Nepal. The first president of the republic, Ram Baran Yadav, stalled the prime minister’s move to sack the army chief for several days, sparking a dispute between the country’s two most important offices. His successor, Bidya Devi Bhandari (nominated by Oli) had on several occasions overruled decisions made by the then prime minister as the new government replaced the coalition led by Oli’s CPN (UML). This is the reason why Prachanda left Oli and joined Deuba.

New political alliances in the interest of India

Recently, when Prachanda became the Prime Minister with the support of Oli, there was uneasiness in India. This was seen as a cause for concern for India’s strategic interests as both communist leaders have been widely pro-China. This comes amid India and China trying to compete for geopolitical influence in Nepal. It seemed that the post of President, Speaker and PM might once again be occupied by Marxist-Maoists who are ideologically closer to the Chinese Communist Party, so it would definitely have an impact on India. During Oli’s tenure, there was a lot of sourness in the relations between the two countries. When Oli was the Prime Minister, his government, while continuing its anti-India campaign, passed a new geographical map from the Parliament of Nepal and made Kalapani and Lipulekh region a part of Nepal. An anti-India campaign was being run in the name of sovereignty and nationalism in the Nepali public.
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The relation between India and Nepal is of ‘bread and daughter’

In such a situation, the Prachanda-Deuba alliance is in the larger interest of India as compared to the Prachanda-Oli alliance. New Delhi must engage with all sides of Nepal’s political spectrum to secure better ties with Kathmandu. India has not only social, geographical, historical and cultural relations with Nepal, but the relation of both is of ‘Roti-Beti’. In such a situation, priority should be given to religious and cultural ties and to build on the goodwill created by the 2015 earthquake reconstruction and Covid-19 pandemic assistance. For the new alliance, it will be a big challenge to restore political stability in Nepal and bring the country back on the track of development. India can play an important role in this.

Author: Dr. Mahendra Kumar Singh is an expert in international affairs and Professor of Political Science at Gorakhpur University.

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