By Maila Baje
The euphoria gripping the Indian media following the resignation of Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli evidently stems from New Delhi’s apparent triumph in having returned to the driver’s seat of Nepali politics after a hiatus of nine months.
Granted, reporters and commentators across the southern border have made some effort to portray the difficulties that lay on the path ahead. But that endeavor has been grudging, at best. The operating principle for the moment seems to be: what happens next can be taken care of later; Oli’s ouster merits its own full-blown carnival moment.
The reasons for this rejoicing are as predictable as they are routine. Oli was losing popularity as his government exhibited a greater preference for China over India, one argument goes. His government’s hardline stance against Madhesis had led India to step in to prevent a spillover of tensions, insists another.
Oli the man was an out-and-out ingrate, it was pointed out somewhere, especially after New Delhi, among other things, funded years of his medical treatment at the best Indian hospitals, financed development projects in his constituency, and offered him political support against rivals within the Communist Party of Nepal-Marxist-Leninist.
For now, the irony inherent in the fact that the leading contender for the premiership is the man who India was instrumental in dislodging seven years earlier amid equal rancor must be ignored. How Nepal Communist Party (Maoist Centre) supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s ascension could be described as a victory for Indian diplomacy remains unclear. All the more so after considering how blatantly Dahal flouted the political, diplomatic and even material support New Delhi provided the Maoists for over a decade to cozy up to China during his premiership in 2008-2009.
However you slice it, the prevailing narrative about an Indian diplomatic triumph says more about the level of New Delhi’s thinking that about the geopolitical predilections of the man. An Indian kiss to the Maoist Centre and the Nepali Congress amid the tumultuous battle of perceptions can only be one of death, regardless of how emphatically those two parties insist they would honor all the agreements Oli’s government signed with China.
The notion that Beijing somehow advised Nepal’s political establishment to patch up with India after Chinese officials and diplomats failed to stop the hemorrhage in Oli’s coalition must be seen against Dahal’s recent public assertion that Beijing would be happy to see him return to the premiership.
Now, the Maoist Centre leader could have been indulging in a woozy head fake characteristic in Nepali politics, fortifying his flank, or clueing us in on the next moves on the regional chessboard. Regardless, it would not take long for New Delhi to discover the true cost of its ‘triumph’.
Dahal described Oli as a ‘genuine statesman’ as the prime minister stepped down from the podium after announcing his resignation. In the weeks and months ahead, that description could take on far greater import in ways that Dahal – or anyone else – could care to contemplate today.
It hasn’t all been said yet
By Maila Baje