In such a grim scenario, everyone should be devoting their time and energy in saving lives and controlling the contagion
The main opposition party in the Parliament, the Nepali Congress, is likely to lay claim to form the next government, although it faces an uphill task of cobbling together at least three political parties. On Monday, President Bidhya Devi Bhandari gave the lawmakers of the House of Representatives three days, that is, till 9 pm on Thursday, to stake claim for the prime minister's post under Article 76 (2) after Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli lost the vote of confidence.
No political party now commands a majority in the 271-member House to form a government on its own. Therefore, at least two or more parties or factions will need to come together to do so. The Nepali Congress with 61 members needs the support of 75 other lawmakers to form the government. Although it has been assured the support of 49 lawmakers of the CPN (MC), led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, it would still require 26 more lawmakers to form the coalition government. Thus, the NC's ability to from the next government will largely hinge on whether it can woo the Janata Samajbadi Party-Nepal (JSP-N) with 32 lawmakers.
But the JSP-N is divided almost vertically between two sets of leaders, and the NC can only count on about 15 of the JSP-N lawmakers. This leaves the NC with no option other than to seek the help of the Madhav Nepal-Jhalanath faction in the CPN (UML).
If the 28 lawmakers belonging to the faction can be swayed to resign en masse, that would reduce the House of Representatives to just 243 members, allowing the NC to form the government with the help of two other parties. But the Nepal-Jhalanath faction, despite threats to resign wholly just before Oli's crucial floor test on Monday, did not, although it abstained from voting.
Anything can happen in politics, but it would look ridiculous for the faction to be supporting the opposition to undermine a colleague from one's own party.
It would be wise for the two sides of the CPN (UML) to bury their internal rifts through dialogue.
While the government and the political parties are overtly preoccupied with the political crisis, the uncontrolled surge in fresh coronavirus cases and alarming death toll in Nepal in recent days are drawing global media attention. With oxygen cylinders, hospital beds, medicines and ventilators in short supply throughout the country, each day is setting a new record in the number of dead. If 52 corona patients had died on Sunday, the number rose to 139 on Monday and a record 225 on Tuesday. What is quite disturbing is that more and more children and young people are falling prey to the second wave of COV- ID-19. In such a grim scenario, everyone should be devoting their time and energy in saving lives and controlling the respiratory contagion. It would, thus, be prudent for the parties to form the next government, under whichever party, as early as possible and divert all attention and resources to controlling the pandemic that shows no signs of abating anytime soon. Doctors have warned that the next three weeks will be particularly alarming, which means that the two-week further extension of the prohibitory orders in the Valley must be enforced even more rigidly if Nepal is to break the chain of infection.
With the number of deaths from COVID-19 infection crossing more than 100 or 150 on a daily basis – 225 people died of the virus in the last 24 hours – the people have come to realise the severity of the disease and have stopped venturing out of their homes unless it is urgent. Vehicular movement has also come to a grinding halt after the authorities imposed strict restrictions on people's movement to break the chain of infection of the second wave of COVID-19, killing more than 4,000 people.
Data show most of the people who have died of the virus are from poor and low income groups, live in crowded spaces of the urban areas and those who have underlying health conditions. As COVID-19 infection has gone out of control in recent weeks, the three district administration offices of the Kathmandu Valley have extended the prohibitory orders until May 27. The first prohibitory orders were put in place on April 29 for one week. Until we are able to vaccinate the entire population of the country, the only way to break the fast spread of the coronavirus is to impose a strict lockdown or prohibitory orders in cities, where the density of population is high compared to that of the rural areas.
A version of this article appears in the print on May 13, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.