Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s surprise move to recommend dissolution of Parliament, about two years ahead of completion of its five year-term has plunged the Himalayan nation into political instability. The dissident group led by party’s Executive Chairman and former Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal in the faction ridden ruling Nepal Communist Party was demanding Prime Minister’s resignation on charges of autocratic functioning, mis-governance, not being able to deal effectively with serious Covid-19 situation and shielding corruption. After an emergency meeting of his Cabinet, Mr. Oli recommended dissolution of the House of Representatives (Pratinidhi Sabha) to President Bidya Devi Bhandari and called for fresh elections to Parliament on 30th April and 10th May 2021, which the President promptly approved. Protesting against the Cabinet decision, seven Ministers belonging to dissident Dahal and Madhav Nepal factions resigned. Three petitions were filed in the country’s Supreme Court challenging the dissolution of Parliament.
The sudden move by Mr. Oli had come amidst fears that nearly 90 ruling party members led by Mr. Dahal were planning to bring a No Confidence Motion against him in the House of Representatives. They recommended Dahal as the new Prime Minister. The uling Nepal Communist Party has nearly two third majority in Parliament with 174 members in a House of 275 but Oli was feeling suffocating with repeated charges against his government. Reports indicate that he was reduced to minority in the apex party forums, the 9-member Secretariat, 44 member Standing Committee and the 445-member Central Committee. He absented himself from the Standing Committee meeting which decided to take disciplinary action against him for his arbitrary action to dissolve Parliament. Later in a televised address. Oli defended his action saying that as Prime Minster of the majority government, he was not allowed to function and, hence was seeking a fresh mandate, which was the best democratic option. He even declared the Standing Committee meeting as unconstitutional.
The ruling Nepal Communist Party, NCP which came into existence in May 2018 with the merger of erstwhile Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist, UML) led by Oli and the Maoist Party led by Dahal. Both factions are yet to fully harmonize at the ground or Village Development Committee level. They jointly fought the 2017 Federal and Provincial elections and came victorious in Parliamentary as well as in six out of seven provincial elections.
The peace and stability which the Communists had promised to the Nepalese people at the time of the general elections in 2017 after promulgation of the new Constitution in 2015 was however short lived. Despite a nearly two-thirds majority in Parliament, Oli’s government was in continuous trouble from intra party rift. At least on two earlier occasions also in April-May 2020 and again in August-September this year, the party was on the verge of a split but blatant interference by foreign powers saved the situation for Oli. Both Oli and Prachanda held separate conventions of their supporters on 22nd October in Kathmandu hinting at a virtual split in the NCP who’s Central Office has been closed.
All eyes are now set on country’s Supreme Court as to how it deals with the petitions challenging the legality and validity of the decision to dismiss Parliament. Constitution Experts in Nepal however view this move as unconstitutional saying that there is no provision in the Constitution for the majority party in power to recommend dissolution of the House which has a fixed term of five years unless dissolved in pursuant of the Constitution. In June 1994 minority CPN (UML) government led by Manmohan Adhikari dissolved Parliament. It was challenged and Parliament restored by the Supreme Court.
India is watching the situation in Nepal. New Delhi has always stood for peace, stability and economic prosperity of a geo-politically friendly neighbour. India wishes that democracy flourishes in the Himalayan nation and also in rest of South Asia.
Script: Rattan Saldi, Political Commentator