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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Northern commissary stokes recent constitutional crisis in Nepal 

Nepal’s politics has been witnessing a tectonic shift which has falsified the anticipation that the new constitution would ensure political stability in Nepal. Currently, Kathmandu is witnessing two political dramas. First, Prime Minister (PM) KP Sharma Oli lost his nerve last week and dissolved the elected parliament in a jiffy, calling for fresh election in April-May next year. Second, few royalists and Hindutva supporters have been protesting for the restoration of monarchy and declaration of Nepal as a ‘Hindu Rastra.’ 

A large number of Nepali people are against Oli’s move of dissolving the parliament. More importantly, the esteemed institution of President has been acting as a lackey of KP Oli. President Bidya Devi Bhandari has been called as the ‘Pet President of Oli’ in some quarters.  Civil society members have collectively issued a statement calming Oli’s move an attack on the spirit of democracy and the Constitution of Nepal.

Media also has been vehemently criticizing the allegedly unconstitutional move of Oli. Editor-in-chief of the Kantipur National Daily has framed Oli as “Asthirta ka nimatta Nayak” (leader who caused instability). Actually, KP Sharma Oli has been trying his best to veil his super failure as the PM. His real public audit started since the breakthrough of Coronavirus (Covid-19). His government’s performance could not meet the minimum expectations of the people. Oli’s ministers and close aides have faced various corruption charges at a time when Covid-19 had challenged the lives of people.

Similarly, intra-party disputes within the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) have already deepened the rift between KP Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal (aka Prachanda) and Madhav Nepal. In the party structure, the  Prachanda faction holds the majority. Though Oli and Prachanda both have driven the party as presidents in the past, their battle for power had never ended. In a strategic way, Oli continued his myopic moves to increase his domination in the state apparatus, and stopped giving importance to Prachanda. 

For some time now, Oli has been acting in a  desperate and stubborn manner. He recruited his confidantes into constitutional bodies and also tried to silence the opposition by giving quotas in different appointments. More importantly, Oli did a lot of geopolitical exercises before the dissolution of the House. Oli was well aware of China’s growing influence within the party. The Chinese ambassador’s activism was focused on preventing the NCP from splitting. But Oli wanted China to help only him.

On the contrary, due to the interventions of the Chinese ambassador in Kathmandu, Oli was compelled to face opposition from the general Nepali public. Similarly, Oli found himself geopolitically alienated as he had cold relations with his southern neighbor, Bharat, which Oli used to have good relations with in the past. Due to the amendment of Nepal’s constitution, including Limpiyadhura and Kalapani in the map of Nepal, Oli’s relation with Bharat was in a state of disarray. To cover up his personal arrogance and failures, Oli illegally dissolved the country’s elected house putting the country’s politics, diplomacy and all other important issues at stake. 

Now the issue of dissolution of parliament has reached the Apex Court. The Chief Justice has scheduled the case to come before a Constitutional Bench. However, as per the trend and nature of judicial appointments which are done using political influence, observers have been speculating whether the court would maintain its neutrality in this case. As the matter is sub judice, it’s better to wait and watch the judiciary’s moves.

Different interpretations are being floated by different political pundits and constitutional experts for public consumption. Some say this is an unconstitutional act by Oli, whereas others have called it constitutionally valid. However, we must remember that the foundation of the current  constitution of Nepal was based on the 16-point-agreement drafted and signed in 2015 by the then Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist and which excluded the agitating Madhes-based parties. This agreement aimed to bring in a new constitution without adopting federalism. It was the judiciary which secured federalism by quoting Article 138 of the Interim Constitution of Nepal, 2007.

Today, what is being happening in Nepal is the outcome of the status quoist leaders of so-called national parties. This columnist had realized that the so-called political stability seen in Nepal is just like a ‘dead peace’ on the day the constitution was promulgated by the ‘fast track’ approach, because the divided politics of that time did not carefully weigh geopolitics and other factors.

In recent times, especially after the Chinese president’s visit to Nepal in 2019, the way China has been given free rein to interfere in Nepali politics in the name of ideological exchanges between the Communist Party of China (CPC) and NCP, the possibility of a drastic shift in the political paradigm had become likely. After the dissolution of parliament, the activeness of the Chinese ambassador has not diminished. Her frequent secret meetings with various communist leaders and the President have widened the scope for another crisis.

A few days before KP Oli’s sudden move, the royalists also became active. The former King is making every effort to brighten his future amidst the political instability created in the country. Loyalists of the dethroned King Gyanendra Shah have been protesting in many districts and even organised a huge protest in Kathmandu and Jhapa, the home district of KP Sharma Oli.  

Even though secularism has been enshrined in the constitution of Nepal, based on its bracketed explanation, Nepal is still a Hindu nation in terms of interpretation. As a matter of fact, it is known that if some of the achievements of the present Constitution, namely federalism, republicanism and so-called secularism are removed, there is a possibility that the constitutional legitimacy of this system would come into question.

Looking at the character and failures of the current political forces, it would be natural for people to fall in love with Gyanendra. But the Nepalese people, who have been breathing in republicanism, will certainly not reaccept the overthrown monarchy. And those who want to see political stability in Nepal have to take this issue seriously. In the midst of the current political turmoil in Nepal, neither domestic nor external forces should dare to fish in murky waters. 

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Randhir Chaudhary
Randhir Chaudhary
Email: [email protected] Twitter: @randhirJNK


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