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What does Modi’s victory mean for Nepal?

By Prakash A. Raj
NDA (National Democratic Alliance) has emerged victorious in elections held for India’s lower house of Parliament (Lok Sabha) in May this year. BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) won more than 303 seats and is nearest rival Indian National Congress (INC) could win only 52 seats out of 542 seats. BJP has done better than in 2014 when the last elections were held. NDA including its allies such as Shiva Sena and Nitish Kumar’s JDU won 353 seats. BJP won all four seats in Uttarakhanda, just west of the Nepal border, all four seats in Himachal Pradesh, all 25 seats in Rajasthan, 28 out of 29 seats in Madhya Pradesh and all 26 seats in Gujrat. It has also emerged victorious in Haryana and Assam. It could win 60 out of 80 seats in UP situated south of Nepal’s border. It improved its tally in West Bengal and Orissa. However, BJP could only win a majority of seats in Karnataka in south India. It failed to win any seats in Kerala and Tamilnadu. Narendra Modi won Varanasi in UP and Rahul Gandhi was defeated from Amethi in Sultanpur district in UP. However, Rahul could win from Kerala and became a member of Lok Sabha. The only state in North India where INC could win more than BJP was in Punjab.
One of the most important results of the elections was almost total rout of communist parties (CPI and CPM) all over India. The communist parties were ruling in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura in 2004 and had won more than 40 seats in Lok Sabha from these states. However, they could win only four seats in 2019 from Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The communists in Indian parliament played an important role in making Nepal a republic. The communist leader Sitaram Yechury is one such person who was a frequent visitor to Nepal and knew many of Nepal’s communist leaders personally.
The main purpose of this article is to assess the impact of NDA (and BJP) in India and how Indo-Nepal relations may be affected by such an outcome. Are there any lessons to be learnt from victory of BJP in India? Unlike in 2006 when INC, the major constituent of UPA ruling in India supported the Twelve Point Accord between seven political parties and the Maoists in ending the insurgency and resulted eventually in Nepal losing its status as a Hindu kingdom, the outcome would have been very different in 2014 or 2019. This is because the ruling government in India consisted mainly of BJP supported by RSS which was in favour of Hindu Nepal instead of secularism. Girija Prasad Koirala was the leader in Nepal in 2006 who was in good terms with both UML and the Maoists in Nepal.
There are many supporters for Hinduism as the state religion in Nepal in both BJP and RSS. Yogi Adityanath, the chief Minister of UP is known to have excellent relation with former King Gyanendra. We now have a President in Nepal who was elected from CPN (UML), the vice President is a member of CPN (Maoist). Both the communist parties have now merged in Nepal. The speaker of lower house of Parliament and the Home Minister belong to CPN (Maoist). The Prime Minister, KP Sharma Oli is a member of CPN (UML).
Six out of seven federal states in Nepal are ruled by chief ministers who are either CPN (UML) or CPN (Maoist). The ruling communist party won two thirds majority in federal, provincial and local elections held in 2016.
The President and the vice President in India belong to BJP. Similarly, Narendra Modi was elected Prime Minister in both 2014 and 2019. All members of his cabinet and ministers of state are Hindus with one exception. The state governments in more than half of states in India are ruled by BJP or are in coalition its partners in NDA such as Shiva Sena or JD(U).
In contrast to post World War 2 years, there are few communist states in the world including Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea besides People’s Republic of China. The only state in India ruled by communists is Kerala.
Nepal is ruled by a constitution approved by a constituent assembly elected by the people of Nepal after Jana Andolan-2 . It is a sovereign and independent state. Could a former monarchial Hindu state (now communist) co-exist peacefully with India where the ruling party at the centre and many of the states are ruled by BJP many of whose members are members of RSS which had opposed declaration of Nepal as a secular state. The new Foreign Minister of India is Jai Shankar who was formerly its Foreign Secretary. He was former Indian ambassador to China and the United States.
When elections were held under the new constitution of Nepal promulgated in 2016, two thirds of the seats were won by the communists (UML and Maoists). The elections were held after promulgation of the constitution when India had imposed an undeclared blockade against Nepal. It is said that one of the factors that led to such blockade was that Nepal was declared as a secular instead of Hindu state. Actually, it is the people of Nepal who have to decide whether Nepal should be a Hindu or a secular state, whether it should be a republic or a monarchy and whether it should be a unitary or a federal state. The people of Nepal were never given a choice to decide on these issues by a referendum. The new government in India could facilitate this choice which was imposed by the Indian government when in 2006 as the Twelve Point Accord was signed in Delhi and supported by INC and the communist parties in India. There may be more commonality of interest between India and China regarding Nepal. Nepal under Prime Minister Oli seems to be supporting American proposal for Indo-Pacific strategy that may not be liked by China. Nepal has supported Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China. It is possible that China may not oppose a referendum in Nepal about federalism, secular state and monarchy. Therefore, the Nepalese constitution promulgated in 2016 may be amended to facilitate a referendum on the above issues.
The writer is a former vice President of Nepal Council of World Affairs and former staff member of the United Nations Secretariat. He was secretary of Nepal Chapter of International PEN, the organization of writers.

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