Reasons behind Nepal’s political crisis and India’s stance

Context: PM Oli’s decision to opt for fresh elections by dissolving the lower house has created a new political crisis in Nepal.

What is the current crisis in Nepal?

  • Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s move to dissolve the Lower House of Parliament, in order to counter the discord within the ruling party and a challenge to his leadership, has precipitated a constitutional crisis.
  • The President Bidya Devi Bhandari has signed off on the cabinet recommendation to dissolve the Nepalese Parliament and called for fresh elections in April-May, next year.
  • Reactions:
    • The decision has triggered pro-democracy protests.
    • The local newspapers have described the move as “treachery” and “coup de grace on Parliamentary democracy”.
    • Several petitions challenging the move have been filed in the Supreme Court.
    • The Nepalese constitution doesn’t have a clear provision regarding house dissolution. Thus, the street protests and anger against the move doubtless creates pressure on the judicial proceedings.

An adverse decision on the dissolution of Parliament by the Supreme Court and given the loss of credibility in the Constitutional office would create a constitutional chaos further chaos is expected in the days to come.

Why did the prime minister take such a decision?

  • Reluctance to share power: Even after winning the elections of 2015 in coalition, PM Oli was reluctant to share powers with coalition leaders.
  • Fundamental differences: It was a historic opportunity for the NCP, especially for the prime minister, to navigate the young democracy out of its many crises. But the merger did not dissolve the fundamental differences between the NCP’s two groups.
    • For instance, for several years, Oli had demanded that the Maoists under Pushpa Kamal Dahal be held accountable for war crimes, including the killings of CPN-UML cadres.
  • Misplaced objectives: The prime objectives at the formation of the new constitution were to address the concerns of Madhesi groups and strengthen Nepal’s institutions. But the focus was on the consolidation of power, gathering support by adopting anti India postures and cosying up to China.

What should be India’s stance in such a situation?

  • Nepal is organically linked to India’s anti-colonial struggle with leaders such as BP Koirala having spent years in prison with Jagjivan Ram and Rajendra Prasad.
  • India has rebooted its diplomatic outreach with a series of high-profile visits to Kathmandu. This has resulted in the resumption of air travel and fast-tracking of the railway line between Kathmandu to Raxaul in Bihar.
  • A fresh popular cry for democracy presents an opportunity for India to showcase its historical partnership in Nepal’s transition to democracy.
  • Ties with Nepal are critical to India for strategic influence in the Himalayas.
  • Thus, India should adopt a strategy of detached pragmatism rather than proactive involvement, given the crisis period in Nepal.
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