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Twists and turns: What will happen next?

Ishwar Dev Khanal

June 22, 2021

5 MIN READ

Twists and turns: What will happen next?
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KATHMANDU: If anyone is following every twist and turn of Nepali politics, he/she will probably think that the country’s politics is in a mess. But, the situation is even worse than a mess.

As someone who has been closely watching all this turmoil, I can indubitably ascertain that Nepal’s current politics and state of affairs have conked out.

Consider this. Prime Minister KP Oli’s idea and plans have repeatedly failed – the latest being the Supreme Court’s verdict on Tuesday (June 22), which invalidated the expansion of cabinet — something mindboggling for PM Oli.

Nepal’s Supreme Court invalidated two cabinet expansions by Prime Minister Oli relieving 20 ministers of their responsibilities, mounting pressure on him either to resign on moral and political grounds or to face the parliament, if reinstated.

With much grit, Prime Minister Oli had on June 4 and June 10 expanded his cabinet twice after President Bidya Devi Bhandari on the recommendation of Prime Minister dissolved the House of Representatives on May 21.

Prime Minister Oli had inducted 17 ministers and three state ministers from the Mahanta-Mahato faction of the Janata Samajbadi Party on June 4 and June 10, expanding his cabinet.

Responding to six petitions at the SC demanding that the expansions be quashed, a division bench of Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana and Justice Prakash Kumar Dhungana termed the cabinet expansions after the House dissolution “unconstitutional”, and that the newly-inducted ministers need to be relieved of their responsibilities.

With the court order, the Oli-led cabinet has only five ministers — Minister of Finance Bishnu Poudel, Physical Infrastructure Minister Basanta Kumar Nembang, Minister of Education Krishna Gopal Shrestha, Minister of Law Lila Nath Shrestha, and PM Oli himself.

With Tuesday’s SC verdict, the ministers who were sworn in on June 4 have been relieved after taking charge for 19 days, while the ministers who were sworn in on June 10 have been relieved of their responsibilities in 13 days.

Those who took oath on June 4 were Rajendra Mahato, Sharat Singh Bhandari, Anil Kumar Jha, Laxmanlal Karna, Bimal Prasad Srivastava, Umashankar Aragaria, Chanda Chaudhary, Ekwal Mia, Chandrakanta Chaudhary, Renuka Gurung, Raghuveer Mahaseth, and Sher Bahadur Tamang.

Likewise, ministers who were sworn in on June 10 were Rajkishore Yadav, Nanakala Thapa, Jwalakumari Sah, Naradamuni Rana, Mohan Baniya, Ashakumari BK, Khagraj Adhikari and Ganesh Pahadi.

The petitioners had earlier claimed that the government formed under Article 76(3) of the Constitution of Nepal having a caretaker status cannot reshuffle the cabinet.

The main opposition party Nepali Congress dubbed SC’s verdict “apparent” as the “court has reminded PM Oli of the power of the constitution”, and that the court has once again “given the impression that the verdict was impartial.”

With this, the pressure on Prime Minister Oli to resign on moral and political grounds has become more intense as, under him, the ordinary situation has taken extraordinary turns.

However, it is unlikely that he would step down without compelling reasons. Whether PM Oli will step down or take some erratic move is yet to be seen, but the SC verdict has spawned a new challenge for him, and the political scenario – something which has created an environment of abstruseness.

Rewind to February 23, 2021. The SC in its historic verdict had overturned PM Oli’s decision to dissolve the House of Representatives labeling it as ‘unconstitutional’, and asking the government to summon the parliament within 13 days.

The verdict to reinstate the House was hailed by all quarters, including the political parties, and civil society activists labeled the verdict as “impartial”, and that the court decision had restored people’s faith in the independence of the judiciary.

If the House is reinstated again, and if PM Oli tries to prove his strength there, he may not have the sufficient number of lawmakers to garner their support to continue as a prime minister as he needs 138 lawmakers, something which is not possible at the moment.

However, given Nepal’s volatile politics, people from all sections of the society keep asking “what will happen next”. The worrying truth is no one really knows.

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