ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Nepal: Slipping Back into a Deadlock?

The political deadlock in Nepal seems entrenched as factionalism and intrigue surface once again.

The seven-month old political deadlock in Nepal seemed to have been overcome with the election of Jhalanath Khanal as Prime Minister on 3 February. The election of Khanal, chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) – the UML – as prime minister with 368 votes as against 122 votes that his nearest rival Ram Chandra Poudel, vice-chairman of the Nepali Congress (NC), got, out of a total of 558 votes in the Constituent Assembly (CA), was possible only because the chairman of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) – the UCPN(M) – Pushpa Kamal Dahal withdrew from the race and his party decided to back Khanal. For those who sincerely wished to see the completion of the peace process and the writing of a new constitution, there was a glimmer of hope. They even rejoiced at what they saw as a metaphorical slap in New Delhi’s face, for the Indian establishment had been doing all it could behind the scenes to keep the Maoists, by far the largest party in the CA, out of power. Nevertheless, given the extent of the factionalism and intrigue in Nepali politics, and New Delhi’s history of influence in the country’s economy and polity, is this optimism warranted?

Given the numbers in the CA, if any party, other than the Maoists, wants to form the government it needs the support of the latter. Conversely, if the UCPN(M) wants to form the government, it needs the support of either the NC or the UML. After the resignation of the Maoist-led government, which was in power from August 2008 to May 2009, an anti-Maoist 17-party coalition headed by the UML, and backed to the hilt by India, thought it could somehow keep the Maoists out of power. But, in the face of massive public support in the streets for the latter, it was made to resign in June 2010. Since then, there had been umpteen attempts to elect a new prime minister, but no candidate could muster the required votes.

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