Less than a month after India sent its top diplomat to Nepal to repair ties, the latter is heading for snap polls after Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli got Parliament dissolved much ahead of schedule. Oli appeared to have no compunction in burning a house to smoke out a rat, as he chose to hit the self-destruct button to avoid sharing power with pushy party rival Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’.
The ruling Nepal Communist Party was a post-poll marriage of convenience of their individual parties for power in 2018. But for all practical purposes, it was an uneasy coalition of Left forces that could not be whipped and blended. Running coalitions can be very difficult as smaller but ambitious outfits often try to punch above their weight, as the CPM did during UPA-I in India.
As for Prachanda, he is a former PM and has sizable numbers in the ruling party to be a pushover. Managing him called for a large heart and high political skills, not the attributes of petty minds. But Oli had oodles of support from the Chinese envoy. So he created diversions, playing the nationalism card by unilaterally publishing a map that included three contested regions with India as part of Nepal’s territory.
It bought him some breathing space but Prachanda could not be wished away. Friendship with China came at a cost as it nibbled away at border villages causing public resentment and unrest. Prachanda fanned the flames of misrule and Nepal became ungovernable. Oli then played the Parliament dissolution card to pre-empt a no-confidence motion and created a virtual split in his party.
The dissolution is now before the country’s supreme court. As things stand, the clashing Everest-size egos of the communist heavyweights could work to the advantage of the centrist Nepal Congress and slacken Chinese leverage on the border nation.
No wonder Beijing is sending a delegation to explore an improbable patch-up. Nepal Congress rising from the ashes could reset ties with India, as it generally leans towards New Delhi. But for that to happen, the party needs to pick itself up and dust up the disarray in its squabbling leadership to inspire confidence. As for India, the situation is a gift horse, as any dispensation would be better than Oli’s.