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Nepal’s Manufactured Political Crisis

Updated: Mar 6, 2021

-Prof. Jeevan Gurung, SUNY Adirondack, New York

Exclusive: Nepal’s manufactured political crisis has been carried out at the worst moment when the nation is in the grip of a major pandemic. The current political crisis in Nepal is one of the most irresponsible and selfish acts of Nepal’s self-centered political leaders- Prime Minister K. P. Oli and former Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal. The political tussle for power between these two leaders of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) couldn’t have been carried out at a time when the country should have been focused like a laser in making sure that the vaccination process against the deadly virus is carried out efficiently, it is now in the grip of a political crisis that could be a harbinger of more long-term instability and catastrophic consequences.

Oli Mantra

Obviously, a large part of the blame goes to Prime Minister K. P. Oli. He dissolved the Parliament and called for a snap election, a step that went beyond anything mandated by the constitution.

Fortunately, the February 23rd ruling by the Constitutional Bench of Nepal’s Supreme Court seems to have halted Oli’s attempt to usurp his unconstitutional attempt, for the Court ruled that a Prime Minister with a majority in Parliament did not have the authority to dissolve it and that the dissolved House should be restored by March 8th.

But that ruling doesn’t mean the end of the crisis. The uncertainty remains because of the bad blood between the NCP leaders. With Oli unwilling to resign, the coming days will test his political fortune. The mistrust and divide between the two groups, one led by Oli and the other by Dahal, within the NCP is so vast that the uncertainty and political turmoil will probably continue for days and months to come and have major repercussions.

Prachanda’s Gameplan

What is most alarming and outrageous about this manufactured crisis is the reaction of Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who came to power by leading the Maoist movement. In the war that he waged from 1996 and continued until 2006, seventeen thousand people died and thousands were disappeared and maimed. After the war, he signed a peace deal, entered politics, and has ever since demonstrated his self-centeredness beyond any party or national interest. Far from behaving as a leader of a movement, Dahal has always acted like a self-centered politician always aiming for power and nothing else. And more often than not his fiery rhetoric verges dangerously on calling for violence if things do not go his way.

After being forced to resign as prime minister in 2010, he famously asked students at a program to turn all colleges into barracks. And he hasn’t hesitated to brand other parties, especially Nepali Congress and then CPN-UML, as reactionaries and conspirators.

More recently, when Oli refused to honor their musical chair agreement -that both take turns to lead the government - Dahal took to the streets and was back at wielding his fiery rhetoric. During a rally organized by All Nepal National Independent Students Union, a wing of Dahal-Nepal faction on February 13, Dahal called for a violent movement to overthrow Oli. Urging his supporters, he said: “A vegetarian struggle is not going to work now.” He even claimed, “We have anger and hatred for the counter-revolutionaries and we are eager to attack.”

Dahal’s resorting to provocative rhetoric shows his total disregard of the pain and trauma that he led the nation through. More importantly, it demonstrates how far he can go to have his way. He is willing to lead the nation to another proxy war just for the sake of securing the chair of prime ministership for himself.

It is, however, heartening to learn that there are some who seem to be aware of the dangerous path Dahal is treading. Charan Prasain, a human rights defender and civil society activist, said it best: “Dahal has tried to provoke students and youths for a violent movement which is not just wrong but unacceptable.” Furthermore, Prasain said, “It’s concerning … it also reflects that Dahal has yet to internalize the fact that there are peaceful means of struggle also available to achieve the goal.”

Prasian’s concern is accurately captured by Dahal himself. When he was asked about his incendiary rhetoric, he had this to say, “We have already expressed our commitment to peaceful politics, multi-party competition and rule of law. And this commitment is our conviction, not any tactical rhetoric. But if anyone tries to push the nation toward autocracy, it will be Nepali people’s duty to stop it at all cost.” Even in this seeming disavowal of violence and commitment to peaceful politics,