Nepal’s newly appointed prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’. (Photo | AP)
Nepal’s newly appointed prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’. (Photo | AP)

Resuming business with Nepal after Prachanda power grab

No wonder he is seen as the ultimate opportunist who manages to be on the right side of power every time.

When a kingmaker goes against the popular mandate and grabs the throne, as Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ did to become Nepal’s new prime minister, it can only be called a vagary of democracy. Despite winning just 32 seats in the 275-member House of Representatives, Prachanda ejected from his pre-poll alliance led by outgoing PM Sher Bahadur Deuba’s Nepali Congress, which is the single largest party with 89 seats, and parachuted into the camp of arch enemy K P Sharma Oli, whose party is the second largest in the House with 78 members. A former Maoist guerrilla who once led a bloody revolution that ended the monarchy, Prachanda is now adept at powerplay in his country’s tryst with democracy as he has no ideological hangovers. No wonder he is seen as the ultimate opportunist who manages to be on the right side of power every time.

Alliance partners doing a deal to lead their government by rotation does not quite work in this part of the world, unlike, say, in Ireland, where Indian-origin Leo Varadkar became PM in a smooth transfer of power just a few weeks ago. Since Nepal’s general elections threw up a hung Parliament, Deuba was forced to agree to Prachanda’s demand for a rotational prime ministership but refused to let the latter have the first chance at leading the government. Parallelly, Deuba opened back-channel talks with Oli to explore a similar rotational pact to cut out Prachanda. When Machiavellian Prachanda got wind of it, he pulled off his rotational deal with Oli. Chinese persuasion for all Left-wing parties to come together acted as a catalyst. Incidentally, Oli had failed to honour his previous rotational arrangement with Prachanda a couple of years ago, which led to the latter toppling him and bringing Deuba to power.As for India, it is understandably wary of the new government’s trajectory as Oli is a pro-China hardliner who will do backseat driving. Since Prachanda was PM twice in the past, that experience should help him manage the pulls and pressures of office, as he will have to do a tightrope walk to balance Indian and Chinese interests. But since he is not as ideologically driven as Oli, India could perhaps do business with him while being watchful of China’s dirty games. Nepal, anyway, isn’t as big a challenge as the Taliban-led Afghanistan, where India has already resumed humanitarian and development work.

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The New Indian Express
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