Nepal is facing major political turbulence amidst the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, as some senior leaders of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) have demanded resignation of Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli.
Besides, for the first time 31 out of the 44 Standing Committee (SC) members have firmly opposed Mr. Oli. The SC meeting started on May 24 with three agenda points—evaluating Nepal government’s policy and performances, including handling of the COVID-19 situation; India-Nepal border issue; and the matter of parliamentary ratification of UN Millennium Challenge Cooperation that has faced stiff resistance from several groups, including prominent members of the ruling NCP.
Initially, Standing Committee leaders were only critical of Prime Minister Oli’s failure to deliver good governance, growing corruption, and failure of the government to control the COVID-19 spread.
However, the infighting in the party deepened when Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda, Oli’s co-chair in the party, along with senior leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal and Bamdev Gautam demanded that Mr. Oli resign, both as the party Chair and as Prime Minister. They raised Mr Oli’s failure to effectively run the government and the party, and for raking up rhetoric by accusing India and some leaders in Nepal for hatching conspiracies to unseat him. These leaders have claimed that Mr. Oli has lost the moral ground to lead the government and the party.
The Nepalese Prime Minister had remarked that forces within Nepal and India were conspiring to dislodge his government in an apparent bid to take revenge against his resolute move to endorse a new political map that includes Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura which is sovereign Indian territory.
Earlier this year, the Prachanda faction had demanded Mr. Oli’s resignation. Prime Minister Oli had saved himself by diverting public attention towards the map row after India inaugurated the Lipulekh-Mansarovar road on May 8. Subsequently, the Oli government published a new map of Nepal depicting Lipulekh, along with Kalapani and Limpiyadhura, as parts of Nepali territory. He also took China’s help to put pressure on the senior leaders of his own party to maintain unity and to ensure the continuity of his government.
The NCP was formed on February 21, 2018, after the merger of the CPN-UML, led by K P Sharma Oli, and CPN-Maoist Centre, led by Prachanda, by signing a seven-point agreement to incorporate Marxist-Leninist ideology as the guiding principle. The main objective of the unification was to lead the country towards socialism and economic prosperity with social justice. Before merger, both parties had forged a pre-poll alliance to participate in the 2017 parliamentary elections. The alliance had secured a comfortable majority in the Parliament and in six out of the seven provincial assemblies.
The failure of the Oli dispensation has been reflected in street protests in Kathmandu and other cities in Nepal as thousands of youth have opposed the government since June 9 by chanting the slogan “enough is enough”. They are demanding better response from the government in handling the COVID-19 crisis. So far, over 14,000 people have been infected in Nepal, with 24 deaths, due to the COVID-19 infection.
Meanwhile, a large number of ethnic and minority groups have been protesting against the government from June 23 for bringing in a new citizenship bill, which imposes a seven-year threshold for foreign women marrying Nepali citizens to obtain naturalised citizenship of Nepal. These protests have been going-on have become a regular feature in the cities located in the Terai region as also Kathmandu.
Nepal and India have always enjoyed excellent bilateral ties based on the age-old connection by way of geography, history and culture. These relations are close, comprehensive and multi-dimensional. The two countries established diplomatic relations on 17 June 1947. The open border and the 1950 Treaty of Peace and friendship remains a unique feature of the relationship. India is committed to the principles of peaceful coexistence, sovereign equality and understanding of Nepal’s aspirations and sensitivities and growing further together as equal development partners. Kathmandu too, needs to reciprocate these sentiments.
Script: Dr. Nihar R Nayak, Strategic Analyst on Nepal