Monday, January 30, 2023

PM Prachanda gets overwhelming vote of confidence, what now?

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With the Nepali Congress (NC)'s surprise last minute move to give confidence vote to PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda on Tuesday in the parliament, people with even a modicum of interest in Nepali politics are now asking a million dollar question: What now? In Nepali, aba ke hunchha? A news portal has a response to this question: aba ke ke hunchha, ke ke, meaning anything can happen in Nepal.

The question essentially reflects on the fluidity and unpredictability of Nepali politics. Earlier, I hinted at the possibility of NC giving confidence vote to Prachanda government. My prediction was based on media leaking the details of close door meetings between Maoist leader Janardan Sharma and NC top guns including President Sher Bahadur Deuba.

There is a rumour in the market, which could be true as well, that NC must have bargained with PM Prachanda either for the seats of the President or the Speaker, in lieu of confidence vote. This will be obvious within a couple of weeks’ time. However, this strategic move by the Nepali Congress, also followed by its meek partner CPN-US, is expected to be a game-changer in Nepali politics. Before delving on the factors and the implications of this strategic move, let us first take stick of what the public had to say.

Anybody reading social media posts will find an outpouring of sceptical views either (a) denouncing NC for taking opportunistic stand; switching back to panchayat days; making the parliament bereft of strong opposition; as CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli pointed out “Nepali Congress coming up with a new narrative on democracy”; and an indication of NC failure, possibly demise, including Deuba’s inept leadership; or (b) glorification of Prachanda’s success in pulling together divergent forces; dawn of new era in Nepali politics. I suppose both points of views are at the extreme. The reality must be somewhere in between.

Besides sharing of the booties, couple of factors must have triggered NC to take this unprecedented move. When NC senior leader Ram Chandra Paudel says the decision was made to save five-party alliance from further “hijacking”, definitely, he must be having an expectant eye on the seat of the president. He meant stopping Prachanda further drifting into Oli camp.

The strategic move to give confidence vote means neutralizing Oli’s grip onto power. Giving a brief speech in the parliament on the eve of voting, ostensibly, Oli did not look happy. He warned NC not to expect catching fishes in the muddy water where there are no fishes at all. Definitely, Mr. Oli’s plan will be in doldrums when either the post of the President or the Speaker has to be shared with NC. Imagine the situation of those persons whose names were leaked out as potential candidates for the president or the speaker from Oli camp! Earlier, in response to NC claim for “coming back”, Oli, adept in spewing venom, asked a revengeful counter question: “When will you come back?” I suppose, he got the answer very next day.  

The official stand of NC is that they have to take this unusual move to save democracy and the Constitution. Oli’s grip onto power together with his unfailing stand on right to dissolve the parliament and the arrival of new forces antithetical to republic, federalism, and secularism, like RPP and RSP must have panicked NC of a possible political nightmare. To use Oli’s metaphor of bullock-cart, RPP and RSP represents two wheels of the bullock-cart of Prachanda Government with Oli in the driving seat. It will not be surprising, with the clearing of the muddy waters, PM Prachanda forces ambitious Rabi Lamichhane to move from the Ministry of Home Affairs on the grounds of conflict of interest, to some other powerful ministries.

With a single throw, Deuba has managed to kill many birds, including two youngsters within the NC. Out of a total of 25 that were in opposition to Deuba during elections to the NC parliamentary party, only four put down their notes of dissent on NC confidence vote to Prachanda.

With NC confidence vote, will the parliament be bereft of oppositional forces? Are we heading towards partyless panchayat like situation? NC has given confidence vote with a condition not to join government and has reiterated its commitment to stay in the opposition. Having given the vote of confidence, morally, it will be wrong to oppose government decisions. However, moral ineptitude has slipped into Nepali politics the day the parties went to the polls forming electoral alliances. This is similar to match-fixing in the game of sports. This has made mockery out of democracy.

Therefore, there is no point cleaning the downstream when the very source of the water upstream has been corrupted to the core. Legal experts have now pointed that, as per our constitution, only those signatories who recommended Prachanda to the post of PM are in the coalition government while all others are in the opposition. Therefore, the question that NC had made the parliament bereft of opposition has no legal grounds.

In my earlier writing, I also predicted two options Comrade Prachanda is facing – either slow or fast death. Had he been appointed as PM with NC support, it will be a slow death and, with Oli's support, it will be a fast death. Now, having gained support from both camps, my predictions have gone haywire. Let me conclude this writing with a note: It is far more difficult to survive having your feet placed on two boats – particularly, when they are drifting in opposite directions. I suppose, the interesting person to watch is not Deuba nor Oli but our Comrade Prachanda. And I leave the play of the external forces with the readers themselves.

Published on 11 January 2023

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