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Dahal Wins the Game of Thrones in Nepal, But….

CPN Maoist Centre Leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal has achieved his ambition of being a third time Prime Minister after having ditched at least two governments in the last two years.


Most immediately he walked out of the ruling coalition with which he fought the elections held on November 20 successfully which was led by Nepali Congress.


The Nepali Congress emerged as the largest party with 89 seats and a combination with Dahal and other smaller parties was in the offing.


However as there was disagreement on who will lead the government first, Mr Dahal who had laid this as a precondition walked out and joined hands with the second largest party the CPN UML and its leader KP Sharma Oli who ironically, he had dumped in the middle of last year to join hands with the Nepali Congress.


It is apparent that the Nepali Congress leadership was not willing to provide the first turn to Mr Dahal as the prime minister which led to the fall of the ruling coalition.


Role of the President


In this political game of thrones, it is apparent that the President Bidya Devi Bhandari had a very important role to play.


Ms Bhandari is known to be favorable to the CPN UML as she has been a member of the Party some years back and is known to be very close to KP Sharma Oli.


Thus, she did not lose much time in inviting Mr Pushpa Kamal Dahal to form the next government with an assurance of support by CPN UML.


Managing the Coalition


As per the Kathmandu Post, “Dahal has the support of 169 members, including 78 from the CPN-UML, 32 from his own Maoist Centre party and 20 from the Rastriya Swatantra Party, apart from 14 of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, 12 from the Janata Samajbadi Party, six from Janamat Party, and four from Nagarik Unmukti Party”.


It now remains to be seen how Mr Dahal is able to accommodate diverse political parties which form a part of this coalition.


The usual trick is to provide the smaller parties important portfolios in the cabinet to keep them on the right side of the government and as a result a huge cabinet can be anticipated which will be unwieldy and very difficult to control.


Diverse political and ideological players have come together with minor political parties jumping the bank wagon to come to power in Nepal.


Role of External Stakeholders


The blind ambition displayed by Mr Dahal as well as other political leaders in the country has been continuously exploited by the extra regional powers for their own advantage.


China which has been on the back foot for some months after fall of the leftist coalition government which was led by KP Sharma Oli now appears to be back in the game.


The United States which had been pushing for a strong footprint in Nepal in the form of the MCC was successful in doing so with the Nepali Congress led cabinet accepting the same and the parliament finally ratifying it February 2022.


However it appears that the Chinese have been successful in getting together the left parties who have been aligned against each other in the recent past purely for the sake of power thus it is apparent that power has trumped ideology which has been normally the case in Nepal.


For the record both India and China have welcomed the Dahal’s appointment.


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulating Mr Dahal tweeted, “The unique relationship between India and Nepal is based on deep cultural connect and warm people-to-people ties. I look forward to working together with you to further strengthen this friendship”


"Hearty congratulations to Chairman Prachanda [Pushpa Kamal Dahal] for the appointment as the 44th prime minister of Nepal," Spokesperson at the Embassy of China in Kathmandu said in a tweet.


India has welcomed Mr Dahal's nomination but there will definitely be some reverberations and concerns in Delhi given that the two leftist parties are now in power whereas it was hoping that the Nepali Congress led alliance will continue.


Portends of Instability Ahead


Dahal who goes by the name of Prachanda is unlikely to provide the country with stability due to many coalition partners. He also faces many economic challenges with inflation over eight percent and the foreign reserves dwindling.


China and India geopolitical competition may intensify.


Dependence on foreign support is essential as Nepal faces dwindling foreign exchange reserves, with an increasing dependence on imports of basic goods.


With 10 governments since 2008 when Nepal became the Republic even the record book does not seem favourable to Dahal.


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