Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's visit to the BJP headquarters during his last week visit to New Delhi is unique in more ways than one. For a sitting head of government to call on the president of a political party at that party's headquarters is extremely rare, especially when the links between the Nepali Congress and the Indian National Congress (INC) and socialist parties in India have been deeper rather than the BJP.
In fact, the Nepali Congress, to which Mr. Deuba belongs, is the fraternal party of the INC, and the deep friendship between politicians from Nepal, especially those who studied in Indian universities, with Indian politicians from the socialist persuasion has been an important part of the India-Nepal relations.
For the BJP to be embraced in this manner by the Nepali Congress and other political groups, in various degrees of warmth, is, therefore, seems to be a pragmatic move on the part of both the ruling party in India and the parties of Nepal.
PM’s Nepal visit
Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Nepal twice in 2014 and spent much of his early tenure on relations with that country
"We were very clear with leaders of Nepal, who perhaps knew us less than they did the leaders of the Congress and the socialist parties, that it matters not who they choose to meet socially, but for political exchanges, it is us that they will have to talk to," said a senior BJP leader involved in India-Nepal backchannel efforts. The old via media may not be very fruitful.
The BJP's foreign affairs cell and other aspects of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar have been active in terms of engaging with political parties of Nepal since 2018 and the tenure of K.P. Sharma Oli at the helm in that country.
In April 2018, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat addressed the Virat Gurukul conference, of 900 gurukuls across India and Nepal, where civilisational commonalities via vedic education was spoken of.
Nepali Congress leader’s visit
Just a few months before Mr. Deuba's visit, Nepali Congress leader Prakash Sharan Mahath travelled to India and reached out to the BJP as well. He travelled to Lucknow and met Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who, as the Mahant of the Gorakhnath Peeth, has a certain standing in Nepal as well.
The focus, said the BJP leader, was not so much on very individualised or personal ties, despite the fact Arzu Deuba, wife of Mr. Deuba, had tied a rakhi to BJP's foreign affairs cell convenor Vijay Chauthaiwale. "We are more in favour of institutional linkages between various political parties and us, so that relations are the same even if individuals change," said the source. "We want these exchanges to happen with other political parties in Nepal as well."
Whatever the geo-political scene, or the situation in Nepal, the state of play in Indian politics, with a dominant BJP at the helm demonstrates that there are new players on the scene.