Contemporary Nepali politics is full of drama. What does it suggest about the future?

Key players in Nepali politics today (L-R): Madhav Kumar Nepal, KP Sharma Oli, Sher Bahadur Deuba, Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Upendra Yadav
Key players in Nepali politics today (L-R): Madhav Kumar Nepal, KP Sharma Oli, Sher Bahadur Deuba, Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Upendra Yadav

The political events of recent times in Nepal are as twisted as thriller novels or web series you watch on Netflix. If you miss out on following the updates daily, you will surely lose track of activities going on in the nation.

Nepali politics has always been eventful but it seems it has never been so dramatic. It is well-known to everyone that Nepali politics is characterised by feuds, instability and intrusion from outsiders.

Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the head of the CPN-Maoist Centre and the current prime minister, was on good terms with KP Oli until recently. The coalition they formed was to lead for the next five years only if Dahal had not untied the knots that bound them together.

Before the elections in November 2022, the Nepali Congress, the CPN-Maoist Centre, and other parties had formed a coalition to outweigh the CPN-UML. However, after the elections, Dahal broke the ties with Nepali Congress and embraced CPN-UML, leaving the Nepali Congress in a daze. And just as Oli thought Dahal stood by his side, Dahal deceived Oli. As a result, the pre-election duos are together once again. Soon the CPN-UML pulled itself out of the government, and now it stands as a major opposition.

So what do all these dramatic incidents suggest in the long run?

Experiencing deja vu

File: Sher Bahadur Deuba and KP Sharma Oli
File: Sher Bahadur Deuba and KP Sharma Oli

The inconsistency of Dahal has left everyone interested in Nepali politics baffled. People have taken on social media yelling that he is no different than a chameleon that changes its skin colour every now and then.

Erratic moves of Dahal have consequently impacted the presidential election as Ram Chandra Paudel of the Nepali Congress garnered 33, 802 votes to defeat Subas Chandra Nembang of the CPN-UML.

It will be interesting to see where the nation heads under the presidency of Ram Chandra Paudel, who was not considered a lucky figure in Nepali politics. His decades-long career in politics will likely end on a happy note.

Despite the uncertainties, one thing is certain: the political heavyweights– Pushpa Kamal Dahal, KP Sharma Oli, Sher Bahadur Deuba, Madhav Kumar Nepal– will linger around the political landscapes for some more years.

In all probability, they will dominate the next five to 10 years of Nepali politics, and the public will experience deja vu over the years. The scene will continue: the one pulling the legs of another to bask in power.

The new forces

Rabi Lamichhane takes over as a deputy minister and the minister for home affairs, in Kathmandu, on Monday, December 26, 2022.
Rabi Lamichhane takes over as a deputy minister and the minister for home affairs, in Kathmandu, on Monday, December 26, 2022.

The 2022 election results fleshed out the public frustration as a newly formed party called the Rastriya Swatantra Party saw positive outcomes. Of late, youths and even elder people are inclined towards RSP.

However, it is important to understand that it is merely frustration that led them to support the RSP. Experts say that RSP lacks concrete ideology and that the lousy performance of the old parties has benefitted this new party. Its significance in Nepali politics will be determined in the coming years, as it is too early to comment on RSP’s performance.

The elections brought many young politicians into the spotlight of Nepali politics. But, sadly, their behaviour suggests that they are nothing different from their predecessors.

In the interviews on the TV stations, they vent out wrath as if they were elected for that. All they do is criticise the old leaders and collect publicity. The public is so frustrated that if someone hurls abuse at old leaders, they happily clap their hands without a second thought.

The problem is not only the politicians but the general public too. Nepali society is emotional and a small incident is enough to trigger consciousness.

As a citizen, it is important to judge politicians without favour so that the right candidate is elected the next time. A few months before the elections, a campaign called No, Not Again caught everyone off guard and it had been said that the nation would vote for change.

But now we can see that it is the same again– the heavyweights fighting against each other with young candidates left behind.

The essence of change

Gagan Thapa - Sher Bahadur Deuba
L-R: Sher Bahadur Deuba and Gagan Thapa

To everyone’s surprise, Baburam Bhattarai did not contest the elections as he sacrificed his den to his old comrade, Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Thanks to Bhattarai, Dahal is the prime minister now.  

Bhattarai and his qualification remain isolated as the country plunges into an economic crisis. Nepali politics witnesses a qualified finance minister once in a blue moon, and who knows how many years will pass until the country sees a finance minister as qualified as Baburam Bhattarai?

As you cast a light on the economy, you are reminded of Swarnim Wagle, an economist to whom the Nepali Congress did not offer an election ticket. If the Nepali Congress believed he was not good enough, who are you to comment on their decision?

The point is that the nation must have a strong finance minister with sound knowledge of the economy. And unless the nation gets a vigorous finance minister, it is impossible to salvage the economy.

As activities in Nepali politics progress, you will see more changes and you can only hope everything changes for good.

As you talk about contemporary politics, you should not miss out on commenting on Gagan Thapa, an ever-young politician and the hope of many. But the problem is that he is competent in everyone’s eyes except Sher Bahadur Deuba. Thapa has started losing hair on his scalp, but Deuba does not seem to notice it.

One major question stands: when will Deuba feel that Thapa has grown enough to take the leadership role in Nepali politics?

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Gautam is a writer from Pokhara.

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