13-19 May 2016 #808

Hollow nationalism

Not everything is hunky dory in the ruling coalition.
Om Astha Rai

Kunda Dixit

A week after surviving a ‘coup’ by the opposition Nepali Congress, a plot widely believed to have been hatched in New Delhi, Prime Minister K P Oli told diplomats in Kathmandu on Wednesday that his government is not in crisis, and will be replaced only when a new parliament is elected in 2018.

This contradicts the assurance Oli apparently gave Maoist Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal that he would step down after the budget. This means not everything is hunky dory in the ruling coalition, and the NC is waiting for the right opportunity to strike again.

Dahal is under pressure from his party’s ministers in government, and is not publicly pressing for regime change, but he faces counter pressures from other comrades who are not ministers to unseat Oli. The leaders of breakaway Maoist factions, who are finalising a deal with Dahal to rejoin the main party, also want a new government so they can claim a share.

Rajan Bhattarai, one of Oli’s trusted aides, denied there was a secret deal last week to make Dahal PM. “Dahal backed off not because Oli promised him prime ministership but because he realised it was not possible to forge a ruling coalition with the NC and Madhesi parties,” he said.

To make things murkier, Maoist leader Janardan Sharma told us: “Forget the wording, the spirit of the very first line of the deal is to form a new government under our party’s leadership.”

New Delhi appears determined to break the communist coalition which it believes was masterminded by Beijing. Last week, former Indian ambassador KV Rajan is learnt to have secretly met UML leaders, including Madhav Nepal, to break the UML-Maoist partnership. Oli is convinced India wants him out, and in retaliation cancelled President Bidya Bhandari’s visit to India, and recalled Nepal’s ambassador Deep Kumar Upadhyay.

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