Give and Take

In a country like Nepal, it is very easy for the political leadership to change sides and make unexpected alliances.

By Dr. Qasim Sodhar | April 2023

In South Asia, horse trading is an unfortunate norm as securing vote support through different tactical means has become a tradition in many countries of this region. This recently happened during the presidential election in Nepal, where Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal broke the coalition with the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) just because of supporting the largest party, the Nepali Congress, in the presidential election and, in reward, gaining political benefit from the NC.

Dahal is a former Maoist rebel chief who led a Maoist group and waged a war against the government, which lasted till 2006. According to estimates, thousands were killed during that war, and ultimately, Dahal signed a peace accord with the government in 2006. Despite signing that accord, still, the Supreme Court is bound to hear a petition demanding Dahal’s arrest. In this regard, it’s obvious that Dahal needs a protective cover so that he can remain safe and not face any punishment. Therefore, he supported the Nepali Congress, which is the largest winning party in the country.

Although Dahal formed the government with the support of CPN (UML), the second largest party, he knew that his own political party, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), which is the third largest party in the House, could not form the government alone, that was why he needed a coalition with the CPN (UML) and now he joined hands with Nepali Congress. Consequently, Ram Chandra Paudel of the Nepali Congress, has been elected the third President of Nepal securing 33,802 votes against his rival Subash Chandra Nembag, leader of CPN (UML), who secured 15, 518 votes.

The post of president in Nepal is a ceremonial one and possesses little power, but despite that, as the president is the head of the state, yet, the formation and breaking of coalitions during the election were inevitable. Along with forming new alliances, this is also very important to maintain good relations with neighbouring countries like China and India. Interestingly, both India and China are hostile to each other, and in this condition, it is very difficult for a country like Nepal to maintain friendly relations simultaneously with both countries. Likewise, it also depends on the inclination of political parties, such as the CPN (UML) being pro-China, whereas Nepali Congress is pro-India. Hence, getting support from powerful neighbours is also important.

Yet, as China is a communist country and the major and ruling alliance in Nepal is the CPN (UML), which is also ideologically a communist alliance, but, at the same, CPN (MC), which is the third largest party, is also the communist party, despite of that, CPN (MC), is in an Indian camp, which is not a communist country. But, as discussed above, Dahal needs a powerful cover; therefore, it is not difficult for him to make a compromise on ideology.

Politics everywhere, but specifically in South Asia, is all about power. Politics functions in both ways; like to resist the powerful authority (s) is a political activity, likewise, struggling to gain power is also a political move. In this regard, unfortunately, mostly politics has been used in a negative sense in South Asian societies. There are multiple examples in history of how, through positive politics, backward societies under suppression and slavery changed their fate.

If we take a few examples like the French Revolution in 1789, the Russian Revolution in 1917, the Chinese Revolution in 1949, the Cuban Revolution in 1959, and the success stories of political movements in Vietnam, Chile, and many Latin American countries, we can understand how politics used as a tool for the oppressed masses to get their rights from the powerful authorities. But, it’s very unfortunate that on the other hand, politics has been used in a negative sense for hoodwinking people as well. The masses follow their political leaders blindly, which is unfair, and a surprising thing is a major and strong population of youth also does the same. In this connection, it’s very easy for the political leadership to change sides and make unexpected alliances.

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