Political developments in Nepal internal matter of that country: India

India on Wednesday said recent political developments in Nepal, which resulted in President Bidya Devi Bhandari dissolving parliament and calling for fresh elections later this year as internal matters of that country.

A statement from India’s foreign ministry said the political issues were to be tackled by Kathmandu, refusing to take sides in the political tug of war between different parties.

“We have taken note of the recent political developments in Nepal,” Indian foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said in a statement.

“We view these as internal matters of Nepal to be dealt by them under their own domestic framework and democratic processes,” he said.

“As a neighbour and friend, India remains unwavering in its support for Nepal and its people on their journey towards progress, peace, stability, and development,” he added.

Nepalese prime minister K.P. Sharma Oli won a landslide victory in the 2017 elections held on the basis of a new Nepali constitution. But his government has been plagued by uncertainties due to a power struggle between him and former Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as Prachanda.

The recent uncertainty was sparked by Oli being unable to secure the confidence of the Nepalese parliament. The opposition parties, the Nepali Congress (NC) and the NCP (Maoist Centre), voted against him, and others belonging to the Madhav Nepal faction of the United Marxist Leninist and a faction of the Terai-based Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP) absented themselves during the vote. Though Oli lost the confidence vote, the opposition parties, the NC and the NCP (Maoist Centre) were unable to muster the requisite numbers to form a government immediately, with the JSP divided. Given this, Bhandari again appointed Oli prime minister in his capacity as the leader of the single-largest party in Parliament in accordance with the constitution.

Instead of seeking a fresh vote of confidence, Oli recommended to the president that another provision of the constitution be invoked, that is to identify a member of parliament who could gain majority support and form a government. The Nepali opposition mustered 149 signatures, a comfortable majority, with Deuba staking claim for leadership. But Oli too staked claim, stating that he had the support of 153 MPs. The president on her part decided to reject both applications and on the advice of the Oli Cabinet, dissolved the House late on 21 May with fresh elections scheduled for November 2021.

According to former Indian ambassador to Nepal, Ranjit Rae, “All executive power is concentrated in the hands of the Prime Minister and the president without parliamentary accountability.”

“Given the raging pandemic, there is a big question mark on whether elections will be held as scheduled. If they are, the situation would hopefully revert to normal. But this is unlikely, for the opposition parties have already announced a political and legal battle against the Bhandari-Oli unconstitutional move, and may not be willing to participate in elections presided over by the current PM,” Rae said in an opinion piece in the Hindustan Times this week.

India’s reluctance to come out publicly with a strong statement despite the instability in a close neighbour, could be due to several reasons.

In the past, New Delhi has been seen as trying to intervene in Nepali politics, in favour of one of the other leaders, riling others. Previously, India had tilted in favour of the Prachanda, which had made Oli suspicious of New Delhi. India’s seeming interventions had also upset public opinion against New Delhi. In recent times, it’s China that has tried to intervene in the political situation—something that has not gone down well with either the populace or the politicians.

All through the recent periods of the political tug of war, New Delhi has been maintaining a low profile, focusing on humanitarian and development activities such as building schools and hospitals and donating covid-19 medicines to the Nepalese army.

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