Prachanda is poised to become the 39th Prime Minister of Nepal. However, he will have only nine months to make an impression.
--BY SHANT SHARMA
Faced with a no-confidence motion just after nine months in power, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli resigned on July 24. The CPN (Maoist Centre), a key partner in the Oli-led alliance, had pulled the rug from under Oli’s feet. And thus, a political drama which was initiated some three months ago – many say at the behest of India – came to an end.
India’s irritation with the Oli government has been an open secret. So, it was happy at the news of the downfall of Oli government. Some online news reports said a “victory party” was held at the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu after the no-trust motion was registered at the Parliament. The Times of India, a leading Indian newspaper said to be close to the Indian establishment, said. “Oli’s fall is good news for India and “the event was a stinging indictment of Oli’s domestic and foreign policies” and “also a blow for China and its interventions in Nepal.” In an interview with a leading online news portal, Ashok Mehta, a former Major General of the Indian Army and a ‘Nepal expert’ said, “India will welcome the formation of a new government in Nepal.”
Initially, when the no-confidence motion was registered against him, Oli said that he would not resign and face it in Parliament. He also argued that there was no constitutional provision to form a new government and that his government will continue as a caretaker government even if the Legislature endorses the no-trust motion against him.
But, inexplicably, he softened his stance within a couple of days and gave up easily, paving the way for the formation of a new government. Perhaps, he realized that clinging to power even after losing the parliament’s trust would prove costly for him and his party. "I have decided to open the road to elect a new prime minister in this parliament and presented my resignation to the president," Oli said, bringing to an end a 287-day government which many said was marked by inaction, and an overt anti-Indian sentiment.
As things stand now, CPN (Maoist Center) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ is poised to become the next Prime Minister and form a Maoist-Nepali congress alliance government with the support of other small parties. This will be Prachanda’s second innings as the country’s chief executive. His first stint as Nepal’s Prime Minister had ended just about after eight months in 2009. He had resigned after he was unsuccessful in sacking the then Army Chief Rookmangud Katwal. But there is no reason why he cannot begin afresh.
Prachanda’s task as the country’s 39th Prime Minister is already cut out. As per the seven point deal reached between his party and the Nepali Congress, the single largest party in parliament, Prachanda will lead the government for the first nine months. During these nine months, as per the agreement, the Maoist supremo is expected to hold the local elections which haven’t been held for the past 20 years.
However, his immediate attention after becoming the PM should be focused on other unresolved issues which he will have inherited from his predecessor Oli. One of these issues, obviously, is taking the Madhes-based political parties into confidence and ensuring the implementation of the new constitution. Also, the point to be noted here is that local elections won’t be possible, at least in the Tarai-Madhes, without the support of the Madhes-based parties. So, convincing the Madhes-based parties by addressing their disgruntlement over the new constitution will be vital for Prachanda. But constitutional amendment won’t be possible without the support of Oli’s CPN (UML) as amending the constitution would require a two-thirds majority in parliament. The question is: why and how would Oli who feels backstabbed by the Maoists agree to amend the constitution at their request?
This is a tough question which only time will answer. However, Prachanda’s success as the PM will be possible only if he is able to amend the constitution so as to convince the Madhes-based parties to lend their approval for the new constitution. Everyone knows this is not going to be easy at all.
Another major challenge that Prachanda will face is the expedition of the reconstruction works after the 2015 earthquake. His predecessor Oli was not able to do much on the post-earthquake reconstruction front, despite staying in power for nine long months. Prachanda has an opportunity here to win public support if he can give a momentum to the reconstruction process. One thing is very clear right from the very beginning – Prachanda will have only nine months to make an impression as a PM.
How Prachanda’s second innings as PM will play out will depend as much on his internal governance as the equation with New Delhi. But New Delhi is nothing new for Prachanda. After all, he spent eight of the 10 years of the Nepali insurgency in India, mostly in Delhi. And this time, it seems Prachanda has India’s unstinted support. Let’s wish him all the best!