Nepal: Prachanda buries hatchet against Oli; China hand in Deuba ouster

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, December 25: Former Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kumar Dahal ‘Prachanda’ buried the hatchet against the Communist leader KP Sharma ‘Oli’ in a fast-paced political developments in the Himalayan nation, which saw the incumbent premier Sher Bahadur Deuba stranded in the power politics. The local dailies from Nepal reported that Prachand will be Prime Minister for two and a half years, as he stitched a last-minute alliance with Oil-led CPN-UML.

In 2007, Prachand was ousted from the post of PM after Oli had staged a coup against him in line with the fast changing political alignments in Nepal. But there is no permanent enemy or friend in politics, and it was proved agains on a chilly Sunday afternoon in Kathmandu as Prachanda walked out of the alliance led by the Nepali Congress to walk into the arms of Oli.

The new alliance consisting of the Oli-led CPN-UML, which has 77 members in Parliament, will get a comfortable majority. The Maoist Centre-led by Prachanda has 32 seats, while smaller outfits such as rashtriya Swatantra Party (20), Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (14), Janata Samjbadi Party (12), Janmat Party (six) and Nagrik Unmkt Party (four) may give a semblance of stability to the new alliance. There are 275 members in Nepal’s Parliament, and the new alliance will consist of 165 MPs.

Prachanda had emerged as the kingmaker after the Nepal elections threw a fractured mandate. In the end he did not agree to Deuba becoming PM again. During the election campaign the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu was seen strongly backing the Oli-led outfit. Also, senior functionaries of Oli’s party flew to Beijing to apparently take guidance from the Communist leaders.

In the run up to the Nepal elections, there were a number of Chinese delegations which visited Kathmandu. While the involvement of the Indian embassy in Kathmandu in the elections was muted because of the local media’s spotlight, Beijing was seen to be upfront in negotiating the power game. In fact, China hand was also seen in 2017 when Beijing had brokered a pact among the Nepal Communist leaders.

With the power game getting protracted, some of the voices recently had begun arguing the case for India to be open to the idea of being neutral to any party or alliance forming the government in Kathmandu. Strategic Affairs commentator Navita Srikant recently claimed that it was “myopic on the part of Indian stakeholders or the Indian media to not want the Oli-led party in the ruling alliance”. “The party (CPN-UML) supports the India-Nepal national initiatives in shared domains,” she argued.

Prachanda had visited the headquarters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a few months ago, while PM Narendra Modi and Deuba had exchanged visits in signs of warming of the bilateral relations. With Prachand as PM with the support of Oli, India may have a tightrope to negotiate in Kathmandu given the growing Chinese stakes.

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