Muscle vs muscle in Nepal

Kathmandu witnessed yet another show of street strength on its streets on Wednesday, as the faction of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal tried to outdo the rally organised by his arch nemesis Prime Minister K P Oli on 5 February.

Wednesday’s rally was a continuation of protests against PM Oli's dissolution of the lower house of Parliament on 20 December and his announcement of snap polls in April-May.  

As with the Oli rally, thousands of people were bused in from surrounding districts as well as from the Tarai to show strength in numbers.

Analysts saw the two sides are engaged in one-upmanship to show that its rally is bigger than the one of its rival so that it influences the Supreme Court, which is hearing 13 writ petitions against the house dissolution, as well as the Election Commission which has not yet decided on rival bids for the Nepal Communist Party flag and symbol.

"KP Olis were born because of the unlimited powers given to our political leaders," said pro-Dahal politician Janardan Sharma addressing the crowd. He went on to relay his faction's stance on how they would “dismantle” Oli's authoritarian regime.

The event appeared like a repeat of the protest the dissident faction of NCP had organised on 22 January.

Key leaders of the faction, including Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal were among 14 leaders who took to the podium, turn wise. Dahal announced yet another round of similar event for the end of February.

"A movement, bigger than the one we saw in 2006, is about to begin. It will end KP Oli's autocratic regime," said Jhalanath Khanal, another former prime minister and Dahal loyalist. "KP Oli has already been defeated politically and in principle. He has no faith in Marxism-- only on Pashupati."

Increasingly isolated, Oli has been courting Hindutva elements, visiting Pashupati as well as well as declare that Lord Ram was born in Chitwan.

The leaders of the faction who addressed the mass also said there was no alternative to the reinstatement of the house, while they also clearly made speeches that sounded like election campaigns.  

"We have to apologise to the people for not being able to live up to their expectations. We have to promise we will make it up to them," said Narayan Kaji Shrestha, party spokesperson.

The political fraternity has drawn widespread criticism for engaging in power-struggle at a time when other major issues continue to affect Nepalis. In fact social media posts have ridiculed both sides for not caring about repeatedly disrupting life in Kathmandu with their ‘rent-a-crowd’ rallies.

Social media has been rife with the politicians' abject lack of reaction to a recent rape cases, including that of a 17-year-old girl in Baitadi. But the parties seem focused on a campaign spree.

A similar event had been organised last week by Prime Minister K P Oli, at the gates of the Narayanhiti Palace, Darbar Marg. In his address, Oli didn't hold back in maligning his opposition, even though he was careful with his choice of words-- and on Wednesday, Kathmandu saw a repeat of it as the politicians continued mudslinging in words.

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