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Oli had something no Nepal govt since 1959 did. But his party is still imploding

Published Date : July 27, 2020

The formation of K.P. Sharma Oli’s two-thirds majority government in 2018, it was hoped, would finally herald an era of stability in Nepal. Yet, in the two-and-a-half years since, there have been constant rifts in the ruling Nepal Communist Party due to an egregious lack of coordination between the organisation and the government.

The Oli government, which was formed after the unification of two Communist forces — CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre, also secured outside support of Madhes-based Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSPN) and Rastriya Janata Party (RJP) in the federal lower House. The FSPN was later merged with former Maoist ideologue Baburam Bhattarai’s Naya Shakti Party forming a new party — the Samajbadi Party (SP). Now, the SP and RJP have united forming a new party Janata Samajbadi Party, the third-largest party in Nepal’s lower federal House.

These Madhes-based parties supported Oli thinking that the Nepal constitution would be amended to address their demands. But that did not happen, and it forced the Socialist Party to withdraw support in December 2019. With that, PM Oli lost his two-thirds strength in parliament — something his party was the first to enjoy since 1959. Ever since then, the government has been struggling. The newly formed Janata Samajbadi Party, after the merger of big Madhes-based parties, is now preparing to hit the streets demanding a constitutional amendment.

Meanwhile, the NCP meeting to resolve the differences between Oli and his party rival Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ this week did not bring about any closure.


Also read: Plans being hatched in New Delhi to oust me from power: Nepal PM Oli


Bleak two years

In the last two-and-a-half years, no step was taken to cement political stability and address the genuine demands of the people. PM Oli lost the historical opportunity of winning the trust and confidence of other parties and sending a message of national unity. Rather, he tried to engineer a split in the Madhes-based parties. Similarly, in his initial days as the Prime Minister, Oli tried to reportedly bypass the main opposition — Nepali Congress —which has now been partially corrected.

There was also a hope that a stable government with a five-year mandate would be instrumental in kickstarting Nepal’s journey to economic growth and stability. The NCP’s major election plank was, after all, economic prosperity and stability. The slogan of political stability and prosperity helped it draw the support of a large number of people. But, the government failed to leverage its political strength to usher in economic prosperity. Now, Nepal’s economy has been badly hit and unemployment has increased. The coronavirus crisis is to be partially blamed for it, but the government’s performance over the years has been dismal as well.

A three-way fight

At the heart of Nepal’s current crisis lies a power tussle. The dream of political stability gradually started to fade due to the growing conflict in the ruling NCP.

A few months after the formation of the government, a document on the power-sharing agreement between Prime Minister K.P. Oli and party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ was leaked to the media. The thrust of the document was that PM Oli and Prachanda had entered into a power-sharing agreement and would lead the party and the government for an equal amount of time. Oli would have to hand over the government leadership to Prachanda after two-and-a-half years.  During his India visit in 2018, Prachanda clearly spoke with the Indian media about this understanding between him and PM Oli.

Once the agreement was made public, intra-party rifts gradually started to surface too. There have been several subsequent verbal and written agreements between PM Oli and Prachanda to patch up differences, but nothing worked.

The most recent agreement was that PM Oli will lead the government for five years and hand over all party executive powers to Prachanda. The agreement has not been implemented, and that is why there are occasional clashes between the two leaders.

But the fight for power is not only between Oli and Prachanda. Another senior leader of the party, former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, of the CPN-UML faction, is in confrontational mode with PM Oli since the merger. Madhav Kumar is vying for presidency in the next general convention of the party. There are high chances of a three-way competition inside the party in the next convention.

No stable Nepal government

Due to the conflict among the top leaders of the NCP, the government has been living dangerously, nearly collapsing on a few occasions. Similarly, there is a perception that if Oli’s opponents try to destabilise the government, he may choose to split the party and join hands with the Nepali Congress.

This is not the first time in Nepal’s political history that a government has been in trouble because of a conflict in the party. All governments, after the restoration of democracy in 1990, have collapsed due to rifts in the party. Organisational splits, frequent government changes, horse-trading, and corruption have been key features of Nepali politics from 1993 to 2017. In the post-1990 phase, the number of political parties increased and, in some cases, fringe parties with only a handful of seats in parliament were able to act as kingmakers. The earlier constitution gave the prime minister full authority to dissolve the House and call for fresh elections.

That is why, one after another, prime ministers opted for mid-term elections whenever they faced a crisis of confidence in their own party. In the new constitution, adopted in 2015, many such loopholes were closed, with commenters hailing it as a reformed parliamentary system. Under the new provision, the prime minister cannot call for mid-term elections as long as there is a possibility of government formation in the House of Representatives.

Similarly, a no-confidence motion against the prime minister cannot be introduced before two years of government formation. Due to the high threshold, the number of fringe parties in parliament has been sharply reduced. After 1959, the Oli government of 2018 was the first time Nepal received a strong government with a two-thirds mandate. In the1959 parliamentary election, the Nepali Congress had secured two-third votes, but after two years, King Mahendra dismissed the government and imposed the autocratic Panchayat regime. After that, all parties were banned for 30 years.

Since the restoration of multiparty democracy in 1990, all prime ministers have failed to win the confidence of their party and K.P. Sharma Oli is no different.

A party crisis and a pandemic crisis

There is no challenge to Oli from the main opposition party and other leaders because the Nepali Congress has taken a clear position that the five-year tenure of NCP government is the mandate of the people and it does not have any intention of toppling the government.

But they don’t have to. The NCP is on the verge of imploding. Top leaders Prachanda and Madhav Kumar Nepal are urging PM Oli to resign either as party chairman or prime minister. Oli, however, is arguing that he has the mandate to rule for five years and will not step down and that only a general convention can replace the party chairperson.

The Oli-led government has also failed to bring about policy and governance changes. There are reports of widespread corruptionin government mechanisms, and frequent transfers of bureaucrats on the basis of their political ideology.

To honour the people’s mandate, the NCP should immediately end uncertainty over the government and focus on combating Covid-19. But party leaders are investing more time and energy to settle an internal rift than tackle a pandemic.

Published in The Print : https://theprint.in/opinion/oli-had-something-no-nepal-govt-since-1959-did-but-his-party-is-imploding/467258/?fbclid=IwAR0V1zwvK8EY2pjV6QoDdNvW8YatCo4cgTvvINUfEVb1WH3SH5fDq6jl6wA


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