The crisis in Nepal

Once again, Nepal appears to be on the brink of leadership change. The past few days have seen frenetic activity, driven by Maoist leader Prachanda’s desire to oust Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli just months after he took charge. While the attempt has been stalled for the moment, it may be only a matter of time before the number-crunchers get to work to forge an alternative coalition in the 601-member Parliament. There is a difference of only 24 seats between Mr. Oli’s Communist Party of Nepal (UML) and the Nepali Congress. With their 83 seats, the Maoists can always tip the balance. Keeping the confidence of a fragmented Parliament was always going to be a challenge for Mr. Oli. But he finds himself embattled so early in his tenure is also the result of failing to deliver on three important promises. The first is that of a more equitable Constitution and polity, that accommodates the sensitivities of Madhesis, Janjatis and other marginalised groups. The second is that of reversing the estrangement with India. Yes, Mr. Oli has reached out to different groups, and invited the SLMM, or the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha, back for talks after a three-month hiatus. The strain in ties with India has been prevented from worsening, thanks to conciliatory statements from Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa over the weekend. It is on the third, and possibly most pressing, responsibility that Nepal’s government has failed its people entirely: speeding up reconstruction after last year’s earthquake that killed nearly 9,000 people. NGOs estimate that only about one per cent of the 7,70,000 destroyed houses have been properly reconstructed; millions are living in damaged, unsafe homes or in temporary shanties. At this rate, another winter may well come and go without children returning to proper schools, and without hospitals acquiring the facilities to serve Nepal’s most wanting. It is a mystery why Mr. Oli’s government has been so lethargic in drawing up a comprehensive plan to spend the billions of dollars committed by the world community.

India too must share some responsibility for the political crisis in Nepal. For the past six months, New Delhi has raised the ante with Kathmandu. New Delhi has criticised Nepal’s Constitution, banding with other countries at the UN Human Rights Council as well as with the European Union to rebuke Nepal’s government. Behind the scenes, Foreign Ministry and PMO officials have expressed their discomfort with Mr. Oli’s leadership and his overtures to China. In fact, it is widely believed in Kathmandu that India played a role in the late Sushil Koirala’s surprise election challenge to Mr. Oli last year and had a hand in Mr. Prachanda’s gambit this month. The Nepali street is particularly conducive to rumours about Indian interference, even if much of this has no basis in fact. Regardless, this is enough reason for New Delhi to quickly adopt a more open and more energetic outreach, one that is aimed at nothing more than the overall progress of the Himalayan republic.

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Printable version | Apr 12, 2021 11:20:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/The-crisis-in-Nepal/article14310445.ece

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