The brewing political turmoil in Nepal 

The election to pick Nepal’s third President is scheduled on March 9, 2023. The date has been announced after months of quibbling among the political parties of Nepal. However, with the announcement emerged a political showdown between Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Paudel and the Communist Party of Nepal – Unified Marxist Leninist (CPNUML) Vice Chair Subas Nembang – the two contestants for the post of President.

The election of the president is based on a weighted voting system. As things stand, Paudel is most likely to get elected as the next head-of-state as he has the backing of eight parties including the current Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s aka Prachanda’s CPN – Maoist Centre’s support.

The eight-party alliance in Favour of Nepali Congress candidate Paudel has a total vote weightage of 31,711 votes, which is more than enough for a win. On the other hand, the UML has a vote weightage of 15,281 votes only.

Going against the candidate of its own alliance partner by Prachanda has put the political atmosphere of Nepal on the boil, with the coalition government starting to show deep fissures within. With Prachanda’s announcement to support Paudel instead of Nembang, the Rashtriya Prajatantra Party has already pulled its support away with the resignation of three ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Rajendra Lingden.The Nepalese Parliamentary elections held in November 2022 threw a hung Parliament. While the Nepali Congress, led by former PM Sher Bahadur Deuba, formed the largest party with 89 seats, Prachanda’s Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) or CPN–MC won 38 seats whereas Oli’s Communist Party of Nepal–Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN–UML) won 78 seats in the elections. Due to negotiations not working out between Deuba and Prachanda, Prachanda and Oli decided to form the government on a rotation basis with the first of the term being led by Prachanda.

It is important to note that although both Prachanda and Oli are pro-China, they are not on good terms. They have been rivals at loggerheads so much so that Oli while Prime Minister alleged that Prachanda, backed by India, dislodged him from power in his previous term. The two rivals, thus, have come together not because of ideology but for the lust for power.

With the presidential elections and the associated turmoil, a new coalition can be formed if the rift between the coalition partners deepens further. India is waiting for the developments as they unfold further. From India’s standpoint, Paudel’s election to the highest office will be preferable. India has better ties with Sher Bahadur Deuba led Nepali Congress to which Paudel belongs.
With KP Sharma Oli assuming charge of the PM of Nepal in 2018, some sort of tension between India and Nepal relations started brewing. The Oli government showed a clear inclination towards China and didn’t shy away from raking up issues ranging from territorial disputes in Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipulekh to questioning the birthplace of Lord Ram. The erstwhile PM even went on to blame India for the spread of Coronavirus in Nepal terming it the “Indian virus.”Analysts suggest that such an anti-India stance is a reflection of political instability in the domestic politics of Nepal and is often instigated by China.

With his own position insecure in the coalition government along with the rising pressure, both political and economic, many believe the Oli government’s India-bashing was a strategy to divert the attention of the public from the state of affairs in Nepal’s political circles.

Nevertheless, with Sher Bahadur Deuba taking over the premiership of Nepal, the ties began to get better again. It touched a watershed mark with Indian PM Narendra Modi visiting Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, on Buddha Purnima last year.This overture by the Indian Head of Government not only conveyed how valued our shared culture is for the two neighbours but also indicated the significance and emphasis being given to mending the ties at the highest levels. With the visit also came the joint India –Nepal plan to include Lumbini in the Buddhist circuit being promoted by Indian tour operators that would be in addition to the project to build the Ramayan Circuit that even now links various sites of the two neighboring countries. The laying of the foundation stone for an Indian monastery by the Indian PM helped further bolsters the relations.

Not just on the front of soft power ties, but the infrastructure and other collaborations also saw the light of day. Nepal offered India to take up the languishing West Seti hydropower project of Nepal. In the field of education, IIT Madras and Kathmandu University collaborated on offering a joint degree programme while the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) and Lumbini Buddhist University decided to establish a Dr Ambedkar Chair for Buddhist Studies.

India’s involvement in Nepal has been based on its principle of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (the world is one family) and the policy of ‘Neighbourhood First.’ In this regard, India’s main focus has been to boost Nepal’s development through aid and grants for infrastructure development, fostering cultural linkages, helping in improvement of human development indicators, and supporting Nepal during adversities such as the 2015 earthquake.

Although a more moderate Nepali Congress leader Paudel as the President of Nepal will be preferable for India, however, India never interferes in the internal affairs of another sovereign nation and maintains this policy steadfastly. India’s first priority remains a politically stable Nepal duly respecting the decision of Nepal’s citizens and would look for enhanced developmental partnership and cooperation with the political dispensation of any hue and colour.


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