The latest election results have presented something close to what I had been advocating; that Nepal needs a two party system of democracy. (Please read my old posts, Part 1 & Part 2) The reason I had advocated this was to allow a govt to rule without encumbrance and fear of being toppled by own coalition or the Opposition.
In the present scenario coming together of only two communist parties to form an alliance for the governance of the country, CPN Maoists Centre and the moderate CPN- UML, augers well and it is better than forming an alliance of loose multi parties which have their own axes to grind. CPN – UML party won 80 direct seats and 41 out of Proportional Representation method. And Maoist Centre won 31 seats directly and 17 seats on the basis of Proportional Representation. Both the parties have garnered 63.27% seats in the Federal Parliament that is total of 174 seats out of 275. This land slide victory should insure stability of the govt for next five years. It will make it easier to carry through any resolution that the Cabinet will decide in the future for the betterment and development of the country. I am sure both the parties would have reached some pre-poll understanding and agreed on Common Minimum Programme(CMP) to follow for tenure of the term. Also six provinces, except the No. 2, Madhesh, in their kitty, will offer good opportunities to develop the country without problem.
In addition the present constitutional provision does not allow to bring in “Vote of No Confidence Motion” against the sitting Prime minister/govt for two years and if defeated then an another Vote of No Confidence Motion cannot be brought up for another one year. In my mind this is the second best alternative to single party rule for the smooth term of the Parliament. At least the Prime Minister will not have to guard his back while trying to steer the country to development and prosperity as per the CMP.
Nepal has seen no progress in any front of economic growth because of Maoist mayhem for almost a decade or so from 1996; and political instability. Tourism has suffered the most which is their main revenue earning. No jobs have been created, nor have been any industrialisation and infrastructure development. The youth has been going out of the country looking for employment in any menial jobs which can be seen in their rush in the Tribhuvan Airport in Kathmandu or any recruitment rallies of Indian army or British army. Foreign aids dried up because of political instability.
Stock exchanges of any country are good indicators of economic activities in any country. Nepal stock exchange has shown no growth and remained flat for so many years. No state or foreign investor is confident to put his or her money in a country where a new govt cancels the previous govt’s orders. No venture capital can flow in and thus no new enterprises can be established which would create jobs. Case in point is when the PM Deuba abrogated the 2.5 billion dollor Budhi Gandaki hydro electric project which was signed by the previous PM KP Sharma Oli.
This new political development should open up vast opportunity for the nation. I am sanguine that the country will indeed make better progress in an economic front because the communist alliance has secured majority in six provinces out of the seven which will make it easy to have good coordination for the development projects in those provinces. Madhesh has remained their Achilles heel. This will remain to be seen how Madhesh is handled by the new regime.
The time has come that the Nepalese people have to accept to live with the communist ideology in the country. I can only hope that the tight knit communist alliance is totally ideologically motivated to govern the country for the progress and economic upliftment of downtrodden and pay proper attention to social justice, nationalism and egalitarianism. I emphasise the total commitment to the ideology they have chosen. Earlier there appeared to be blurring of ideological perception which created instability for decades.
Shri KP Sharma Oli is likely to be the next Prime Minister of Nepal. His demonstrated liking for China over India is a well known fact. India should be ready to live with that fact and try to evolve its foreign policy in a manner that should be seen as a friendly to Nepal rather than being seen as a destabiliser and interfering neighbour.
Nepal is hemmed between two powerful nation on the north and south. Both China and India are emerging as powerful nations and trying to increase their areas of influence. China will like to stop India’s democratic and secular spread to its southern border in to Tibet Autonomous Region. (China already has thorn in its flesh as Uighur pro democracy uprising in its north west Xinjiang Autonomous Region) India is wary of Chinese influence in its neighbourhood that is Mynamar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka. Pakistan is already in its pocket. Recent Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Maldives and China is a sign of China’s success in its outreach in South Asia. Pakistan is its long time FTA partner. It is also exploring FTA with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Nepal had already requested China for railway line to connect Kathmandu with mainland China which is being considered seriously and also immediate resumption of the old Araniko highway. Nepal recently signed China – Aid, Oil and Gas resources survey project and framework agreement on Promotion on Investment and Economic Cooperation. It must be noted that Nepal voted for One Belt One Road (OBOR) in favour of China.
Communism establishing a strong foothold in Nepal is a sort of political coup for the South Asian region. India must accept that the communists have arrived at the door. Former diplomat, M. K. Bhadrakumar, said “These are early days but a communist government in Nepal will profoundly impact the geopolitics of South Asia. It is useful to factor in that Nepal took a neutral stance on the India-China standoff in Doklam. India’s capacity to influence Nepal’s foreign policies under a communist government will be even more limited. Equally, it remains to be seen how Nepal’s ‘defection’ from the Indian orbit might have a domino effect on Bhutan.”
In my opinion:-
India needs to reassure Nepal of its neutrality and non-interference in its domestic affairs.
It needs to focus on deepening its strategic engagement benefiting both the countries.
Try to undertake various infrastructure development like rail, road and hydro power projects in fair terms, very competitively and with total transparency. It must be understood that greater Chinese involvement in Nepal’s political life will be inevitable and therefore compete fairly with the Chinese govt/company to obtain the projects in their favour. Implement the work well to gain the confidence of people.
Provide any immediate assistance to Nepal in cases of emergency like it did during the earthquake in 2015. That is the advantage it must maintain which is not available with China.
After the communists ascent in Nepal it will be the best to avoid spread of any India centric propaganda in that country. Nepalese people in general are inclined and friendly with India. India provides huge opportunity to Nepalese for employment, education and medical facilities. The communism is losing its sheen the world over. Let us hope that it will be a matter of time when Nepal will wean away from it. Till that time I can only wish well for the people of Nepal.
My wish list for new Nepal in the next decade will be,
1. To have strong bias for physical infrastructure development like highways, rail links and airports to connect all remote parts of the country, &
2. To go full hog for digitisation of all govt services so that a poor man does not have to travel long distances and stand in a queue for the same. Estonia became independent from erstwhile USSR in 1991 achieved more than 99% digitisation of all its govt services within two decades. Govt to govt assistance can be sought from them to achieve full digitisation in the country. Both political masters and bureaucracy must work relentlessly in this direction.
PS: Indian Prime Minster did well to take initiative by talking to Shri KP Oli yesterday (on 23 Dec 2017.)