The PM's fate had been sealed even before the House voting after he could not secure the support of the JSP-N

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has lost the vote of confidence in the House of Representatives (HoR), leaving him with no alternative other than to step down as the executive head of the country. He was able to garner only 93 votes from the 232 lawmakers present in the 271-member Lower House against at least 136 needed to secure his prime ministerial post. Actually, PM Oli's fate had been sealed even before the House voting on Monday after he could not secure the support of Janata Samajbadi Party-Nepal (JSP-N) and with the Madhav Nepal-Jhalanath Khanal faction of the ruling party deciding to abstain from voting. Oli's CPN-UML government had fallen into a minority after the CPN (Maoist Centre) of Pushpa Kamal Dahal withdrew support to it just days after the prime minister decided to seek the vote of confidence. Left with 121 UML lawmakers in the HoR, it was short of 15 parliamentarians, a deficit that was to be bridged with support from the JSP-N. However, the JSP-N faced a dilemma as two leaders – Mahanta Thakur and Rajendra Mahato – were for supporting Oli if he addressed the party's demands while two other leaders – Upendra Yadav and Baburam Bhattarai – were for toppling his government.

PM Oli hadn't quite expected things to go the way it has. Initially, he was promised support by the JSP-N.

After it started wavering on its commitment, he had approached Nepali Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba for support, only to be rebuffed. And to add insult to injury, lawmakers of the Nepal-Khanal faction of his own party threatened to resign en masse just before the PM's floor test, a move he said was a crime.

Ever since Oli, who was elected Prime Minister in February 2018, completed three years in office, Prachanda, Nepal and Khanal had tried to unseat him time and again. But PM Oli refused to yield to their pressure, which ultimately led to the dissolution of the HoR on December 20 last year with calls for fresh elections. However, the Supreme Court reinstated the House in February, only to soon after annul the 2018 merger of the CPN (UML) and the CPN (MC). For the Nepal-Khanal duo, Oli's defeat Monday is a pyrrhic victory that will have grave repercussions on party unity.

PM Oli may have lost the confidence motion, but he still leads the largest party in the parliament, even if lawmakers from the Nepal-Khanal faction were to be deducted. Nepal's political situation is such that no single party now can form a government without the support of at least one other party. For the opposition Nepali Congress to cobble together a coalition government, it would need to rope in more than two parties or factions. This might eventually leave the President with no other choice than to invoke Article 76 (7) of the constitution that allows her to announce mid-term elections, which PM Oli has been after all along. The constant inter and intra party political bickering has cost the country dear in terms of political stability, which has remained elusive for many decades. With the second wave of the COVID-19 raging across the country, the ensuing political uncertainty threatens to distract the government and undermine our time and effort to contain the virus.

Food crisis

Many mountain districts of Karnali Province always face food crisis as the entire province does not have enough fertile and arable land to grow sufficient food to feed its population. That is why the government-owned Food Management and Trading Company Limited supplies foodstuffs in these foodscarce districts from outside at subsidised rates. But the food to be supplied by the government does not meet the local demand as many of the families there are relying on rice or wheat ferried from Tarai.

The Saldang area of Dolpa district is now facing an acute shortage of food as the local contractor – Dinesh Transport Service – could only transport around 600 quintals of rice there out of the total quota of 1,500 quintals in the last six months. The food scarcity could further deepen in Dolpa as many district administration offices in the Tarai region, especially in Banke and Kailali, have imposed prohibitory orders to contain the surge in COVID-19 cases. It is not possible for the supplier to transport foodstuffs when the prohibitory order is in place. The government must, therefore, find an alternative to transport food to the mountainous regions to resolve the food crisis before it becomes too late.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 11, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.