On the cusp of a possible second wave, the country is reeling under a shortage of Covid-19 vaccines. The vaccination program for those under 60 has been suspended. Following the legal split in the ruling Nepal Communist Party, Prime Minister KP Oli is completely focused on knitting together a majority in the 275-member federal lower house. The opposition parties—Nepali Congress, JSPN and breakaway CPN (Maoist Center)—too have tried to form an anti-Oli coalition. Both the efforts have failed, and it could be some time before a majority government is formed.
Big differences separate negotiating parties. Oli’s CPN-UML wants JSPN to unconditionally join the government, perhaps in return of a handful of lucrative ministries. The nationalist prime minister won’t amend the national charter as per JSPN demands; nor will he be keen on releasing Resham Chaudhary, the alleged mastermind of the 2015 Tikapur killings, again for the fear of a nationalist backlash. As negotiations drag on, JSPN could split, if enough of its leaders get the ministries of their choice. This could be a risky course for breakaway Madhesi leaders ahead of the federal elections.
Nepali Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba either gets to be prime minister again, or all government-formation negotiations are off the table. Biding time, he seems to have calculated, is the best course of action now. If he is offered the PM’s chair, all and good; if not, he could still emerge as the leader of the largest parliamentary party after federal elections. JSPN knows Congress too is in no position to address its constitution-amendment demands. In that case, the party should get to lead the tripartite Congress-Maoist-JSPN government, its leaders argue. Meanwhile, Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s revived Maoist party wants Oli out at any cost.
Oli, who has not stepped down even after the court’s restoration of the house he dissolved, is no statesman. Perhaps he even feels vindicated following yet another Supreme Court verdict, this time dissolving the ruling NCP. The truth is that he has failed to govern the country in the past three years, including during the dark days of the pandemic. That there is no good option to replace him works to his favor, but to great disfavor of the nascent federal democratic republic he leads.