At a time when the Nepalese capital is facing a crippling fuel crisis, following the agitation of Madhesh based parties at the border points and disruption of vehicle movements in Nepal-India border by the Indian side, CPN-UML leader K.P. Sharma Oli has constituted a rainbow coalition government under his prime mastership.
Backed by extreme communists, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists and extreme rightists, the RPP-Nepal, which went to the Constituent Assembly elections with the agenda of Monarchy and Hindu state, Oli, who is himself a former rebel of the Naxalite brand, an extremely violent communist movement, secured a thumping majority with support from the third largest party of Madhesh led by former home minister Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar.
Although new Prime Minister Oli has come up with six priority sectors for his government, including negotiating with the Madhesh agitators, accelerating reconstruction work in the earthquake devastated region, normalizing relations with India and effective implementation of new constitution, administrative reform and so on, he needs to walk very cautiously.
In his first cabinet meeting, prime minister Oli formed a high-level committee to negotiate with India to resume the supply of petroleum products and other essential commodities.
New Delhi did not welcome the constitution and, as a consequence, supplies across the border were disrupted. India feels that if there is discontent among a large section of the Tarai population, the ensuing instability will have political-security implications across the border.
As the obstruction of Madheshis continue at the border points, it is unlikely to see the supply become smooth until the government shows some tangible solutions to the Madhesh-based parties.
A newly appointed deputy prime minister and leader of Madheshi Janadhikar Forum Loktantrik has already said that the new constitution will be amended with the demand of Madhesh based parties and Tharus.
Yet it is hard to know what the direction of the government with extreme right and left backings will be like.
In the history of Nepali politics, principles and ideologies have had little role to play as powerful and plum portfolios are the dominant guiding factors. Under the agreement, RPP-N Chairman Kamal Thapa and Madheshi Janadhikar Forum Democratic leader Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar have already secured two important portfolios, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Transport and Physical Planning. Maoist Chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s trusted man Krishna Bahadur Mahara may find a berth as Deputy Prime Minister along with the responsibility of Home Ministry.
Although the new government was formed with a thumping majority, one thing can be safely predicted that Nepal will have seen a yet another unstable government, the eighth in the past nine years.
CPN-UML leader Oli secured 338 votes and Nepali Congress leader and outgoing Prime Minister Sushil Koirala secured 249 out of 587 votes cast in the Legislature Parliament. There were 598 members at the Legislature Parliament.
Although Nepal-India relations are in a very bad shape recently, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the first foreign head of the government to congratulate the newly elected Nepali Prime Minister, K.P. Sharma Oli. Chinese ambassador to Nepal Wu Chuntai also congratulated prime minister Oli with a bouquet.
Indian Prime Minister Modi phoned newly elected Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli and congratulated him for being elected the prime minister of Nepal and invited Oli to visit India at the earliest.
There is a new constitution, but it is deeply contested. A mass movement across the plains has paralyzed life for over 55 days. Key social groups like Madheshis and Tharus have not owned the constitution, and seek a substantial review of its provisions.
This is ironical because he was once the favorite of the Indian establishment. He has told interlocutors in private that he is opposed to the creation of two provinces in the Tarai because India would ‘control’ these provinces and use it to generate pressure in Kathmandu.
In his agreements with Maoists and other forces, opposition to ‘foreign interference’ has been played up as a defining slogan. Oli’s coming together with Maoist chairman Prachanda and the royalist right leader, Kamal Thapa, signifies the alliance of the far-left and far-right of Nepali politics, which has traditionally been united under the rubric of an anti-Madhesh, and anti-India agenda. Delhi holds Oli largely responsible for the current crisis in Nepal, and tilting the Nepali discourse against India; Oli feels that India did what it could to stop him from becoming PM. Distrust is high.
“Oli has two choices. He can either remain the man he was before taking over. The Madheshi streets will continue to burn, and the movement will intensify even more. Delhi may officially welcome his election, but the chill and indifference will persist, which will make governing Nepal increasingly difficult. The post earthquake reconstruction task will continue to be relegated to the back-burner, and suffering will increase,” writes Prashanta Jha in his commentary in The Hindustan Times.
Or he can let power moderate his instincts, reach out to the Tarai, enable the passage of amendments related to Madhesi inclusion and representation, become flexible on the question of federal demarcation, and carve out a new contract with Madhesis and Tharus. If he improves the domestic political equilibrium, the dynamics with Delhi will also improve.