Nepal’s Internal Politics
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- India and its neighbours
In News: In the last week of April, Nepal’s ruling Nepal Communist Party suffered a serious internal rift as rival factions within the party threatened to unseat Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli. As the intra-party rift escalated, the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal held a series of meetings with top party leaders. According to local media reports, the Chinese ambassador requested that ruling party leaders maintain unity, and avoid a party split. The rival factions have since backtracked and have now put up a united front on the controversial new map.
Nepal’s government had tabled a crucial Constitution Amendment bill to formalise the country’s new map which claims parts of India as its territory. The principal opposition party has extended its support to the government, but the Madheshi parties are non-committal.
The Background – Internal Politics
When the two parties came together in an electoral alliance for the 2017 polls, no one had expected that they would go on to merge, given their fractious history. But the two top leaders managed to put aside their differences and agree to the merger, albeit on the condition that they would lead government for two-and-a-half years each.
The two years of the Nepal Communist Party have been marked by a constant tussle between Oli and Dahal; while the former has attempted to run the party and government as he saw fit, Dahal has increasingly chafed at being sidelined. The problems in the party erupted all because Oli and Dahal failed to manage power sharing between them
After Oli continued to exercise power unilaterally both in government and the party bypassing Dahal, the latter forged a strong alliance with a number of Oli’s former party comrades—Madhav Nepal, Jhalanath Khanal and Bamdev Gautam. While the Nepal Communist Party had long remained steadfastly allied along former party lines, Nepal, Khanal and Gautam had all felt increasingly sidelined within the party, with Oli monopolising decision-making. They broke convention to ally with Dahal, prompting a near crisis in the party. Oli’s opponents called for his resignation as prime minister but the ever wily Oli managed to break the alliance and retain his position, although by a hair’s breadth.
This latest crisis was sorted out by the hectic movement of second-rung leaders, and it is they who need to be included in the decision-making circle.
Faulty Foundation behind the Merger
The problems in the party will remain as long as decision-making in the party remains the province of a few select leaders and ignores influential second-rung leaders like Shankar Pokhrel, Prithvi Subba Gurung, Barshaman Pun, Ghanashyam Bhusal and Janardan Sharma. But there are those who believe that the foundation of the party’s merger itself was faulty, as the union was not driven by ideology but was simply a move to gain state power.
A communist force of the Nepal Communist Party’s size and strength could’ve maintained unity by enacting progressive policies that the constituent parties had committed to in their election manifestos. But none of the policies were ever implemented, showing that ideology was never the unifying factor. Party leaders were influenced by mediators and mafia groups who helped them stay in power. The budget for agriculture was slashed to Rs40 billion from Rs90 billion.
Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, ruling party shenanigans have already earned it much criticism for not focusing on the crisis at hand and instead getting bogged in internal politics. Analysts fear the same thing could happen with the ongoing border dispute with India over Lipulekh.
This shows that all along, the top leadership of the party has remained inward-looking, too focussed on its own internal power dynamics to even think about the people at large. Today, only two things can save them – Proper handling of the coronavirus crisis and the border dispute!
Read: The Border Dispute
Connecting the Dots:
- Does this crisis reflect a failure of India’s Neighbourhood First policy? Why has India not yet taken the initiative to defuse tensions and begin a diplomatic dialogue? Discuss.
- The role of India in Nepal’s political transition from monarchy to constitutional democracy has affected relations between the two countries. How? Discuss.
- Unity prompted by a desire to capture state power will collapse any time one feels that the possibility of power is over. Discuss.