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Oli’s fall is good news for India, Prachanda likely to be next PM

By Indrani Bagchi
NEW DELHI: As Nepal moved on Sunday to finally dislodge prime minister KP Oli+, it was a positive development so far as India is concerned. Faced with a no-confidence motion, Oli resigned on Sunday, paving the way for a Prachanda-led Maoist-Nepali Congress government in Kathmandu. While the event was a stinging indictment of Oli’s domestic and foreign policies, it’s also a blow for China and its interventions in Nepal.
There was some debate in Kathmandu about the steps after the dissolution of the Oli government, and how the president, Bidhya Bhandari would interpret Article 305 of the Nepal constitution on how another government would be formed. But NC leader and former PM, Sher Bahadur Deuba stressed that only the parliament had the power to decide on the next government. Oli tried hard to get the president to declare he could continue as caretaker prime minister. But Nepal watchers here say Oli’s efforts to stay on would prove costly not only for his party but for Nepal. The no-trust motion in the 598-member Constituent Assembly was backed by 183 NC parliamentarians, 70 from CPN-MC and three from CPN-United. The three parties have a combined strength of 292 in Parliament.
“I have decided to open the road to elect a new prime minister in this parliament and presented my resignation to the president,” Oli said, bringing to an end a 287-day government marked by inaction, and an overt-anti-Indian sentiment.
Oli’s erosion of support can be traced to several things — first, the blatant discrimination his government showed to the Madhesis (who form 51 per cent of the population) which resulted in months of protests and a blockades on the India-Nepal border; second, his disinterest or inability to deliver on reconstruction and rehabilitation post 2015 earthquake, and third, his play on ultra-nationalism, by overtly courting China in an attempt to build an anti-India state. Over six months after Oli’s government greeted trucks bringing in petroleum supplies from the China border, it has become clear there is no real agreement on either energy supplies from China or transit through Tianjin, which is yet to be available to Nepal. The details of Nepal-China partnership is yet to acquire discernible contours, despite Oli’s protestations.
While India has been criticized for the blockade in 2015, in hindsight the blockade served a very important purpose. It drove home the message India has made from the beginning that Nepal’s constitution and government needed to be more inclusive and less discriminatory. PM Narendra Modi used the phrase “samaaveshi samvidhan” repeatedly with the Nepalese leadership- but it needed the blunt instrument of the blockade to drive that point home. India feared Terai regions of Nepal would turn ugly in the coming months and years if the shortcomings of the constitution were not addressed. In many different ways, India’s approach to Nepal has been vindicated. With Prachanda likely to become the next PM, India will extend full support to the new government, restoring a strategic relationship that had gone off the rails. This was a response to Oli’s statement, “Nepal is being developed as a laboratory and foreign elements are conspiring not to implement the constitution.”
In the wake of the crisis, India put out the red carpet for Oli to signal India’s view that the Nepal constitution is actually a positive document. “There are shortcomings that should be addressed, but Nepal has made steady progress towards democracy,” said official sources. Although the Nepal government delivered on two promises to the Madhesis, it still has to work on three others- citizenship, province delimitation (“seemankan”) and Madhesi representation in the upper house of Nepal parliament. That will be among the first items on the agenda of the next government, apart from clearing a national budget.
China has expended unusual amounts of political and diplomatic capital to build an anti-India phalanx in Nepal politics, by trying to stitch the Left parties together. In May, they succeeded in getting Prachanda to change his mind. But ground level politics was giving Prachanda very different feedback. In the past few weeks, Chinese officials have worked hard to save the fraying relations between Oli and his partners who had started to desert. The first to go was Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), leaving Kamal Thapa’s royalist lot isolated. Bijay Gachchedar’s MJAF(D) including Tharus and Madhesis also supported the no-trust vote, after throwing their lot with Oli in October 2015.
China has worked hard on India’s neighbouring governments to build another anti-India front apart from Pakistan. But, as with Mahinda Rajapakse in Sri Lanka, they have failed to recognize political realities in Nepal. The growing anti-India sentiment being fanned in Nepal by the establishment, had become a problem for India. India will be looking to reverse that.
(Times of India)

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