Oli's chances of getting the support of either the NC or the FSP is very slim due to his move to dissolve the HoR

With the division bench of the Supreme Court on Sunday ruling in favour of Rishiram Kattel's Nepal Communist Party (NCP) as the authentic political party while invalidating the unification between the then CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre as the NCP, the prospect of the ruling party staying united appears to be almost non-existent, at least for now. Oli and Dahal had registered the unified party as the NCP with the EC on June 6, 2018 following their merger on May 17, 2018. Although some constitutional experts have termed the verdict as 'obiter dictum', the justices have told Oli and Dahal, co-chair of the now-invalidated NCP, to register their party by a new name by completing the legal processes. It means the Supreme Court's verdict has effectively revived the CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre, both of which contested the 2017 general elections under different election symbols and later formed the coalition government. In their ruling, Justices Bam Kumar Shrestha and Kumar Regmi stated that Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led NCP could not be recognised as there is already another party with the same name registered with the Election Commission on August

6, 2017.

The apex court's verdict has put the Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal faction, which had teamed up to oust PM KP Oli from office and party leadership, in a precarious position. With the revival of the CPNUML and CPN-Maoist Centre, there is no possibility of further unification between the two leftist forces given their animosities in recent times, especially after the dissolution of the House of Representatives on December 20 and its reinstatement through an order of the constitutional bench of the top court on February 23. Chances of reviewing the verdict by a larger bench is also very slim as the EC, which was made a defendant in the case, is unlikely to challenge the verdict.

Although the Oli-led government, which used to enjoy an almost two-thirds majority in the House, has now been reduced to a minority government because of the revival of the CPN-Maoist Centre, Oli has emerged as the strongest leader in the CPN-UML.

The Madhav Nepal faction, which had sided with Dahal in its bid to remove Oli, has no option other than to toe the party line to be set by Oli as the party chair.

The Nepal faction cannot split the party as it does not have the required strength in the UML's central committee and its parliamentary party. Although the UML will remain as the largest force in parliament with 121 seats, it needs the backing of either the Nepali Congress (NC) or the Federal Socialist Party (FSP) to form a coalition government, keeping Dahal's Maoist Centre at bay. But Oli's chances of getting the support of either the NC or the FSP is very slim because of his move to dissolve the HoR. The possibility of the NC forming the next government is high as it might get the backing of Dahal and the FSP. But it all depends on the political strategy NC boss Sher Bahadur Deuba will adopt. If Deuba also does not want to form a coalition government for the next two years, a mid-term election is inevitable. In such a scenario, KP Oli will be vindicated for his move to dissolve the House.

Drug deal

News reports, almost on a daily basis, of drug seizures while being smuggled from across the border to Nepal point to the gravity of the problem here.

They range from hard drugs like heroin to depressants like benzodiazepines. Although there is no authentic data, it is estimated that there could be anywhere between 50,000 and 60,000 mostly young drug abusers in the country, making Nepal a very lucrative market. What is particularly worrisome is that a third of them are intravenous drug users (IDUs), making them vulnerable to contracting diseases like HIV/ AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases.

There are many factors why youngsters become addicted to drugs. But lack of employment in the country, when one is not pursuing an education, and ensuing frustration could be a major reason pushing them into substance abuse. The pandemic that has isolated people and brought economic activities to a standstill across the world has thrown up many mental health challenges and seen substance abuse go up. Thus, apart from helping youngsters cope with stress and get on with their lives, it is important for the government to regulate the open border with India to prevent drugs from entering the country.

A version of this article appears in the print on March 09, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.