On 20 December 2020, Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli and Bidhya Devi Bhandari—the prime minister and president of Nepal, respectively—dissolved the country’s parliament, sparking a constitutional crisis. The leaders opposing the decision have claimed that Oli’s act is against the spirit of the Nepalese constitution whose 76th section only allows dissolution when all other options have been exhausted. They use the term “pratigaman,” or regression, for it. On 23 February 2021, the Supreme Court of Nepal overturned the dissolution of parliament. However, Oli’s allies have said he will not step down as Prime Minister, prolonging the constitutional crisis.
Following the first election under a new constitution that was ratified in 2015, Oli’s Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), led by former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal—commonly called Prachanda—merged to form the Nepal Communist Party. The two parties had previously worked together in Janandolan 2, a movement to end the Nepali monarchy. However, the past three years have been marred by constant infighting in the NCP, primarily over Nepal’s relationship with India and Oli’s move to join the Millennium Challenge Corporation. The MCC is a bilateral foreign aid agreement with the United States which critics fear would lead to the loss of Nepali sovereignty. On 24 January 2021, the NCP, led by Prachanda, expelled Oli, calling his act unconstitutional.
On 4 February, a nationwide general strike was called by the NCP. Ever since, massive protests have erupted in Nepal. In a protest on that day in Janakpur, Nepalese police fired more than 15 rounds in air and used tear gas against the protesters. Matrika Prasad Yadav, the former minister for industry, commerce and supplies—who was made to step down from his post by Oli in November last year—was severely injured in the police action. He was flown to Kathmandu for treatment and arrived in Delhi on 15 February for his further treatment. Two days before the Supreme Court overturned the desolution, Vishnu Sharma, a Hindi translation fellow at The Caravan, spoke to Yadav about the ongoing political crisis, India’s position on it, Oli’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the MCC. “What I want India to remember is that it was Oli who was responsible for fanning the anti-India campaign in Nepal, when he first became prime minister,” Yadav said.
Vishnu Sharma: What is happening in Nepal?
Matrika Prasad Yadav: Currently, a coup has happened in Nepal against the achievements of the 2015 constitution. These achievements were the result of several long struggles, including the decade long People’s War, the Janandolan 2 and the Madheshi movement. Often, the people who rebel are those who are unsatisfied with a constitution, but here we have a situation where a government has done a coup.
There had been acts of such regression in the past too, the kings had done so, but now a prime minister, who is from a communist party is doing it. The current situation is extremely complex and it is an attack on the gains we have all made. It shouldn’t be seen simply as a question of elections [which will likely follow] the constitution itself is under fire. If the regression isn’t corrected, then the elections too will be unconstitutional.