The war of words between the two Nepal Communist Party factions—or should we call them separate parties now?—is getting uglier by the day. Prime Minister and NCP co-chair KP Oli has tossed aside any decency as he criticizes senior leaders of the rival faction in most unseemly terms. Angered by Oli’s constant provocations, Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal, the two rival-faction leaders, are also throwing their own ugly jabs. On Jan 13, Dahal referred to Oli as a ‘joker’.
What is essentially a clash of egos between senior communist leaders has also thrown the country into deep political and constitutional turmoil. Each faction claims to represent the ‘authentic’ NCP and deserving of the original party name and the much-sought election symbol of sun. The Election Commission is considering their claims, even as the issues of House dissolution and some constitutional appointments are sub judice at the Supreme Court. We are afraid that the internecine struggle in the NCP could have a damning impact on the Nepali democratic process and its nascent federal architecture.
It is not only the Nepali Congress that has gotten a new lease of life as it looks to profit from what is a de facto NCP split. The Madhes-based Janata Samajbadi Party Nepal, the third biggest force in the national legislature, is making its own calculations as it looks to dust off its old constitution-amendment agenda. The big danger though comes from the royalists, the supporters of the monarchy and Hindu state. They essentially want to overturn all of Nepal’s post-2006 political achievements.
The growing involvement of India and China in Nepal’s domestic politics will further complicate things. A big chunk of the Indian establishment would like to see Nepal as a Hindu state, and reckons now is the perfect time to push the agenda. China too seems determined to preserve the clout it enjoyed under the NCP government. Like it or not, these two foreign actors will play a big role, direct or indirect, in shaping Nepali politics for years to come, including in the determination of future electoral outcomes.
As the grip of Nepal’s principle democratic actors on national politics loosens, various domestic and foreign elements unhappy with Nepal’s recent political changes will seek to push their destabilizing agendas. This will put Nepal’s federal democratic project at an imminent risk.