KathmanduPushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ has often sought to discredit the government led by his Nepal Communist Party co-chairman KP Oli. Never a patient man, he is in a hurry to be prime minister again. If not, party chairmanship would do. As Oli won’t give up either post easily, Dahal wants to build international pressure for his ouster. He jets off to the US, close Oli aides suspect, for a secret rendezvous with senior American officials, on the handy pretext of getting a treatment for his wife. Dahal wants the Americans to know he will always be more accommodating of the US interests in Nepal (read: Asia-Pacific Strategy) than the ‘pro-China’ Oli can ever be.
Dahal then ensures that the Indian Embassy letter asking the Nepali government not to stop its contingents of fruits and vegetables is leaked online before it comes to the notice of the prime minister. How content must he have felt to make PM Oli helplessly admit of being kept in the dark by his own officials! Dahal’s proxies in the NCP then invite the son of the Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro to Nepal, even as the Venezuelan government is under American sanctions for its anti-democratic activities. With Dahal expertly hiding his tracks, the ‘clueless’ government of Oli is again blamed.
The former Maoist supremo has already alerted the Indian establishment that Oli is merely warming the PM’s seat and it is only a matter of time before he gets his turn. Of course, he had to reiterate this right on the eve of PM Oli’s New Delhi visit to take part in Narendra Modi’s second swearing-in as prime minister. His message to the Chinese is as self-serving: on becoming the prime minister in 2009, he was someone who dared visit China before India. Which other Nepali leader could take such a monumental risk to show his fealty?
Oli knows Dahal is a wily old fox. But so is the blockade-busting prime minister. With Dahal determined to play hardball, Oli is also dilly dallying on a quick settlement of war-time human rights cases. Oli is aware that so long as the peace process is incomplete, Dahal will always have to look over his soldiers whenever he ventures out of the country. Former child soldier Lenin Bista has been quite successful in convincing the Europeans in particular that ex-Maoist commanders like Dahal and Baburam Bhattarai are ‘war criminals’.
Expect a lot of political churn when Chinese President Xi comes to town later this year. The Indians have already gotten a whiff of his prospective visit and they are not pleased. The government, meanwhile, wants to complete homework on at least a few big-ticket projects for President Xi to sign. Till date the Oli government has made no bones about its proximity to China and its wholesale acceptance of the BRI framework. India—ever skeptical of any western presence in its traditional sphere of influence but also increasingly of Chinese inroads here—is still trying to work its modus vivendi on the roles of the two powers in this region. Xi’s visit could just tip the balance in the favor of the Americans.
With the Chinese president’s visit likely to open new fault-lines in Nepali geopolitics, Dahal may soon get to play another of his dirty tricks to boot Oli out of power.