The legality of the actions and uncertainty of the future with Oli again going for a vote of confidence within 30 days question the very ethos on which democracies are established and the premise on which an alliance formed prior to the elections results in a divided House, deceiving the citizens who voted
Nepal is a country of political turmoils.
From monarchy to civil war, and formation of the Republican state, it has gone through all. Now that Nepal has embraced electoral democracy in its Constitution, there is constant tussle over federalism.
Even before the issue of federalism is resolved, Nepal is in another political chaos to experiment the limits of functioning.
With Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, a majoritarian elected communist leader in power, Nepal is testing the waters of democracy.
Although opting to work on the Indian model with a Chinese-style Party-State, Nepal has different fabrics of leaders and citizens, who are conscious and politically aware. Yet, a limited number of leaders at the top constrain choices and possibilities.
The re-emergence of Oli as the PM has opened a new debate over the provisions of the Constitution, as well as the entire exercise of people's representation through the ballot box.
The political events since last year have moved the debate from the federal Parliament to the Supreme Court, where issues of legality of actions are argued.
The first issue of legality was Oli's unilateral decision to dissolve the Parliament.
The second was the Supreme Court's surprising directive to re-divide the alliance of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP = UML + Maoist) that contested the elections and gained a majority to form the government with absolute majority.
The third was a call for a vote of confidence motion by Oli even though he dissolved the House of Representatives on December 20, a decsion the Supreme Court termed it unconstitutional.
Fourth, the reappointment of Oli as the PM representing the UML, while Prachanda automatically becoming the leader of the third opposition party representing the Maoist (another faction of the NCP), as NCP gets dissolved permanently.
The legality of the actions and uncertainty of the future with Oli again going for a vote of confidence within 30 days question the very ethos on which democracies are established and the premise on which an alliance formed prior to the elections results in a divided House, deceiving the citizens who voted.
Apart from the core issue of NCP inner-party or rather now intra-party frictions, there is an entire public discourse on the division and cause of unification of the Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP), which was a major indecisive actor in the re-appointment of the PM.
Rooted also was the debate as to whether a larger alliance of the Maoist, Nepali Congress (NC) and JSP was possible for a stable government without the mandate of the people.
While a section of the people is happy with the re-appointment of Oli, there are many who are in despair.
Late last year, Nepal saw huge protests against the policies and actions of Oli for neglecting the welfare of the masses, which indicated Oli is gradually losing mass support, even if he passed a new map of Nepal that incorporated areas of Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura.
At present, there is division of opinion on his reappointment.
Mitra Bandhu Paudel, Principal at Little Angels' College of Management under Kathmandu University, is pessimistic about the future, stressing Oli's tenure will not last more than a month, which is also the time to again go for a floor test. Dr. Manish Thapa, Visiting Professor at the Department of Conflict, Peace and Development Studies at Tribhuvan University, states in despair that as Oli controls the parliamentary numbers, there is no alternative until the next election.
Hence, how Oli plays in the next 30 days will decide the future of politics and stability of the government, but for the time being Oli has emerged as a powerful leader and smart politician.
The JSP was the main actor in deciding the new PM, but the division among the members weakened its power as an alternative force. Amidst the political turmoil, even the cause of Madhes is getting dissolved.
Shree Govind Shah, an environmentalist, feels that "Madhes has lost its real character, with 'One Madhes' notion disappearing from political discourses.
The situation is accentuated due to multiple voices existing in the Tarai, even though partly two main parties (RJPN and SP) have come under one umbrella of the JSP.
Yet, the JSP has not been able to become a collective representative party of all the Madhesi people.
According to Shah, there are three parallel forces working in the Tarai:Two factions under JSP, i.e., one group of the Mahantha Thakur-Rajendra Mahato older alliance –the RJPN; and the other faction of the Dr. Baburam Bhattarai-Upendra Yadav older alliance –the SP.
Besides, there is a third force of youngsters who support Dr CK Raut's Janamat Party.
This time the JSP had a good opportunity to act in coordination and play a constructive role.
However, the leaders were divided and hesitated.
JSP unity has not been very smooth with many speculating the division sooner than later. With nearly half of the members supporting the Mahato-Thakur faction remaining neutral and the Yadav-Bhattarai faction opposing Oli during the no-confidence vote, it is clear that the JSP lacks cohesive objective.
Dr Thapa believes the JSP will remain as a pendulum party, as it exists without an agenda, weakening the alternative democratic pillar.
If Madhesi leaders want to remain relevant for their people, they need to reframe the objectives for the future and establish high ground for a democratic federal state.
Nepal needs to do course correction, Paudel states, which is also the need of the hour for the JSP.
The focus of the leaders must shift towards development, while keeping the interest of human security and individual well-being at the core. With the current set of leaders carrying older baggage, it has become imperative that young leaders are promoted and nurtured for the future of Nepal.
Kochhar is Assistant Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and China Fudan FDDI Ambassador in South Asia
A version of this article appears in the print on May 17, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.