Oli on backfoot as ‘Revived’ Nepal Parliament Meets Today (Mar 7)
As the ‘revived’ Parliament meets today (March 7), Nepal Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli finds himself at crossroads and his rivals on the horns of a dilemma. His continued discomfiture is a set a back to his main prop, China, which, setting aside diplomatic niceties, has been working to save him from ignominy.
The Supreme Court has dashed his plans for an early poll and revived the dissolved lower house of Parliament (on 23rd February); his bete noire, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who loves to be known as Prachanda, is working overtime to see his back. “Go lock stock and barrel” thunders Prachanda every day but Oli has not obliged him thus far. Constitutional experts aver that Oli has no moral right to continue as Prime Minister after the court snub but that argument is neither here nor there in real politics.
Prachanda loved to see Oli’s back on Sunday, Mar 6. It remained an unfulfilled wish as Oli did not resign and instead declared ready for an open bout.
Frankly, both are counting on each other’s weaknesses. Oli knows that parliamentary numbers are not in favor of Prachanda, who is counting on the fact that Oli lacks quorum in the party.
Both are claiming the support of 100 lawmakers. And are counting on the support of the main opposition, Nepal Congress but this grand old party is still undecided whether to unseat Oli through a trust vote or take the support of either of the two NCP factions to grab power. Interestingly, the split in the ruling NCP is still defacto, not dejure as yet.
Speaking of numbers on the floor of Parliament, undivided NCP had 174 members; of them, 121 belong to Oli’s erstwhile CPN(UML). The remaining 53 are identified with the Maoist party which submerged in the NCP in 2018.
Insider accounts put the strength of the Prachanda-Nepal faction, at about 90 members and of the Oli group at around 84. The Nepali Congress has just 63 lawmakers on its benches. This makes it a kingmaker of sorts but it is on the proverbial dilemma – to plunge or not headlong into government formation.
The position of 32 -member Janata Samajwadi party is no different. The Prachanda-Nepal faction has been soliciting their support for a while, from the 26th of February, to be precise.
The rift in the NCP is not a sudden development; it has been raging for several months with the majority group led by veterans Prachanda and Madhav Kumar Nepal firing at Oli on all cylinders. Both had reduced him to a minority in the Central Committee and all other key party bodies. And knocked at the poll body for recognition.
The Election Commission has not yet taken cognizance of the split and continues to view NCP as a single political entity. Well, this is one of the many absurdities in the Nepal scene since there is no remote chance of Oli- Prachanda patch up, at least as of now.
While Oli is seeing a foreign hand behind his troubles, Prachanda is openly appealing to foreign powers to help his cause.
From all accounts, Oli’s status today is of a Caretaker Prime Minister. So much so, the immediate task before the reinstated Parliament is to make way for a new government that commands a majority of the House.
This is easier said than done. Hence the prevailing piquant situation, which Oli is exploiting to his advantage.
Days before he dissolved Parliament to settle scores with Prachanda and company, they had sent a no-confidence motion. According to Parliament Secretariat, however, the motion was received after President Bidya Devi Bhandari had dissolved the House. And became infructuous in a manner of speaking. Since the House has been reinstated, the trust motion is back on the table.
Will Oli take recourse to the motion to turn the tables on his rivals? Or wait for a new motion whether by Prachanda- Nepal or Nepal Congress.
The air is thick with so many possibilities.
It is also possible that like all leaders pushed into a minority, he may stall the proceedings of Parliament to buy time to put his act together.
The name of the unfolding game is polarisation. It is an open-ended game. And it entails trade-offs.
Janata Samajwadi Party, for instance, has some demands.
“We will support the group or the party which pledges to meet our demands”, says party veteran Rajinder Mahto.
These demands have been pending since the new Republican Constitution was unveiled six years ago. The release of their jailed leaders, including lawmaker Resham Chaudhari, is a key demand. He has been in jail since 2015. Observers opine that JSP support alone will not provide manna to the Oli government.
A veteran of many political battles, Rameshwar Raya Yadav, has an interesting take. He had resigned from the Oli cabinet and closed ranks with the Prachanda-Nepal combine.
In his view, Oli will lose the trust vote. “An overwhelming number of lawmakers are against Prime Minister. This section believes that what Oli did by dissolving Parliament was wrong and that Supreme Court has saved the Constitution by reviving Parliament”, he says and thus echoes the views of the Opposition.
Crystal gazing is hazardous at all times, more so in Nepal where the political turmoil is turning murky by the day. Also, when the ‘caretaker’ Prime Minister is reinventing the anti-India plank and nationalism wheel that had paid him dividends in the past. Political stability is going to be the causality in the near term. Any doubt!
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