Saturday, 24 October, 2020

Power Game Getting Upper Hand

Uttam Maharjan


Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli came to power in February 2018 mainly due to the nationalist stance he took against the implicit embargo imposed by India against Nepal in the backwash of the promulgation of the constitution in 2015. At the time, he was praised for not kowtowing to the powerful Indian establishment. This time, he has got an opportunity to prove himself to be a nationalist leader over the border issue with India.
Despite vigorous protests from India, in May the government issued a revised political and administrative map incorporating Limpiyadhura, Lipulek and Kalapani, the Nepali territories occupied by India since 1962 in the wake of the Sino-Indian War of that year. Now, Nepal is grappling with the coronavirus scourge like the rest of the world. In recent times, locust attacks have inflicted damage on crops in some parts of the country. So this is the time for all political parties and leaders to stand united against the ongoing problems.

Intra-party wrangling
If anything, intra-party wrangling in the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has overshadowed the problems that need immediate attention. In a sense, the attention of the government has been diverted from these grave problems to the power game. Voices have been raised in the NCP for the resignation of Prime Minister Oli. Six out of nine members of the party’s Secretariat and 30 out of 44 members of the Standing Committee have demanded the resignation of PM. NCP top leaders like Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda', Jhalanath Khanal and Madhav Kumar Nepal are falling over themselves to oust Oli from the premiership at any cost. They accuse Prime Minister Oli of not being able to run the party and the government. The untoward situation cropped up when Prime Minister Oli said that some leaders and India were hatching a conspiracy to unseat him.
This is not the right time to engage in political wrangling. Nepal has issued a revised map encapsulating the territories of Limpiyadhura, Lipulek and Kalapani controlled by India for 58 years. The map has also been updated in the country's coat of arms. Although the country has won a cartographic war against India, the territories are yet to be physically claimed. For this, the best option is to resolve the issue through diplomatic and political negotiations. The country is ready to hold talks with India any time but India has not shown any willingness. In fact, India is avoiding coming to the negotiating table. As political rifts are raging in the country, it may benefit India by allowing it to fish in troubled waters.
If the present government changes as wished by Prime Minister Oli's detractors, the position of Nepal vis-à-vis India may be watered down as far as resolving the border issue is concerned as the new government may be busy in other matters and the enthusiasm for taking back the territories may wear off gradually. Political instability continues to roil Nepal for decades. With the installation of the new government under the leadership of Prime Minister Oli, people have believed that the government will run a full 5-year term as it commands a two-thirds majority. Further, six out of seven state governments are controlled by the NCP.
The present developments are not a good omen. It shows that the present government may, too, face the fate of the previous governments, which would change frequently. It is said that the Bhutanese refugee crisis could not be resolved due, inter alia, to the political instability prevailing then. The change of the guard took place in quick succession, weakening Nepal's position vis-à-vis Bhutan's. Although many Bhutanese refugees have been resettled in third countries under the resettlement plan of the UNHCR, there are still around 7,000 Bhutanese refugees living in eastern Nepal. Thus, it can be said the Bhutanese refugee crisis has not been fully solved.
The present government has a two-thirds majority. So the opposition parties, including the main opposition party Nepali Congress, cannot pull down it. It is a bit surprising that it is the heavyweights in the ruling party that have tried to pull down the government and form a new one by ousting the PM. He is in the minority within the party and feels he is being encircled by his detractors. This is not the first time that Prime Minister Oli's post has been endangered. Sometime back he had faced similar threat to his position. This time, the matter has risen to a crescendo.

Feeling of unity
Anyway, there is a formidable challenge before the government to take back the territories of Limpiyadhura, Lipulek and Kalapani from India in the first place. There are also other territories like Susta encroached upon by India, which also need to be taken back. When there is the issue of sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence, all the political parties, leaders and general people should show unity and solidarity. The feeling of nationalism, unity and solidarity shown by all the political parties, including Madhesi ones during the release of new map and constitution amendment for the purpose was unique and unprecedented. Such a feeling should be kept alive so that the encroached territories can be reclaimed from India through diplomatic and political negotiations. After all, the current political wrangling driven by a craving for strengthening one's political position and taking political advantages has arisen at the wrong time and must be sorted out amicably.

(Former banker, Maharjan has been regularly writing on contemporary issues for this daily since 2000. 

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