By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan*
Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli (K.P. Oli) achieved his dream of becoming the 38th Prime Minister of Nepal on 12th October after winning with a majority of 338 votes against a total of 587 members.
Oli was not a “Consensus Candidate”:
There were some last minute hurdles in former Sushil Koirala changing his mind and standing for elections. But he got only 249 votes and thus botched up his own chances of becoming the first President of a Federal Nepal under the new Constitution. It is not clear how Sushil Koirala decided to stand for elections as he by nature is not an ambitious person and that too when the numbers were against him. His two senior colleagues should equally share the blame in bringing the whole party to a laughing stock!
There was no doubt that there was an informal understanding that Nepali Congress would formally give way to the UML to field its chairman as Prime minister with the post of President going to the Nepali Congress and that of the Speaker to the Maoists. Sushil Koirala now claims that there was no such understanding and that the sixteen point agreement did not make any mention of such an arrangement. If there was no formal understanding why did he not deny such rumours earlier when it was known to almost everyone in the valley?
In the process, he has unwittingly thrown K.P.Oli who is not that well disposed towards the Maoists, into their arms! Now until the next elections, Maoists will attempt to call the shots from behind in running the country. It is said that already strong differences have arisen over the distribution of cabinet portfolios not only amongst the parties but within them also.
Koirala’s behaviour was reminiscent of G.P.Koirala’s efforts to become the first President of Nepal. G.P. Koirala was confident that he would be elected unopposed for his great efforts to bring the Jana Andolan II to a successful conclusion and for the emergence of a Federal Nepal. But he failed to assess that the Maoists could be very undependable. In turn his successor has proved to the UML and the Maoists that he is also undependable!
K. P. Oli:
K.P. Oli hails from Terathum and was elected from one of the constituencies of Jhapa. Though his formal education was not much, he is said to be a learned person and versatile in many languages.
He became the chairman of CP.N. UML in July 2014 and has had the experience of handling both the Home Ministry and Foreign Ministry portfolios with great ability.
Oli had also undergone frequent imprisonments during the Panchayat regime between 1973 and 1987.
He was also a Deputy Prime Minister for a while in 2006 in the interim government.
Of the top three in the UML hierarchy, Oli is said to be most moderate and decisive. He is also known more for his incendiary statements than for his political acumen! He perhaps does not know but should know now that he is the most hated “Pahadi Politician” in Terai Madhes.
Oli has two enemies both from within. He is said to be in poor health and more than that, has an ‘acid tongue’. He has to come down from his perch if he has to resolve the problems facing the country and hopefully will have to distance himself from the “tight embrace” of the Maoists. He has not begun well as is seen from his letter to the Terai leaders calling for a dialogue that is said to be too formal and not conciliatory either by affected parties.
But it was a master stroke of Oli that he appointed two leaders who were opposed to him Gachhadar and Kamal Thapa of RPP as his deputy Prime Ministers. He is planning to have more Deputy Prime ministers from other parties as well!
The Terai Factor:
It looks that the Hill leaders have made a fairly good judgement of the Terain leaders in that the latter could always be won over. How does one explain the sudden ‘about turn’ of Gachaadar the leader of the MJF ( democratic forum) in signing a wishy washy eight point agreement just in time to take the oath as “Deputy Prime Minister.”
How does one explain the other Terain leaders like Upendra Yadav, Rajendra Mahato and Mahant Thakur allowing their parties to support the former Prime Minister Koirala who was equally responsible in pushing for a not so inclusive constitution. These parties voted in the parliament under a constitution that was rejected by them and had symbolically burnt copies of the statute publicly! The media is full of stories that it was India inspired which I hope is not true!
The protests in Terai are continuing. While formal talks have not been resumed there have been many informal contacts with the Terain leaders. The Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa who is in charge of Foreign Ministry Has visited Delhi – 16th – 18th and has had a formal meeting with his counterpart Sushma Swaraj. Media reports indicates that he was visiting India primarily to persuade India to lift the blockade!
There is no blockade either, but goods are not flowing smoothly through the main border customs at Raxaul. The protestors are still blocking the highway between the two check posts. It is said that during the meeting of the two foreign ministers on 18th, the Indian side pointed out that there is no block on the Indian side and the point was again made out to make the constitution more inclusive.
The way out:
It is not clear as to what happened to the amendments said to be before the parliament. These would involve amendments t Article 42 (1), Article 84(1-a) and Art 286 (5) that would address the main demand of the Terains on proportional inclusion and delineating the constituencies. There should be no further delay in pushing through the amendments and it is suspected that the Oli government would first wait for detailed dialogue before the amendments.
The formation of a federal commission to redraw the provincial boundaries is not seen to be acceptable to the agitating groups and a way has to be found for a quick solution. On the question of accessability of naturalized citizens to the top posts in the government, the Terain leaders themselves should review their position.
What is clear is that the agitation has gone for too long and it is affecting the economy and creating a permanent division between the people of the hills and the plains. As one analyst has said, the political unrest can evolve into an insurgency and this is not acceptable or good either for Nepal or India.
For this, Prime Minister Oli who is known to be pragmatic and decisive should come down from his perch.