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Nepal: Constitution Amendment Bill Passed: For PM Oli what next?

Paper No. 6604                     Dated 20-June-2020
By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
 
As expected the Upper House- (National Assembly) passed the 2nd Constitution Amendment Bill of redrawing its official map including the disputed areas of Limpiyadhura, Lipu Lekh and Kalapani.  The Presidential seal was given on the same evening of 18th and thus the authentication of the inclusion of the disputed area under Article 274 (10) of the Constitution was complete.
 
PM Oli declared that it was a “milestone towards reclaiming Nepal’s land” He thanked both the houses for having demonstrated unparalleled unity in endorsing the bill.  He said it was a historic achievement for Nepal.
 
The same day- may be a coincidence, the Foreign Minister Gyawali participated in a high-level Video Conference with his Chinese counterpart on the Belt Toad Initiative and about the Covid-19 (read Wuhan Virus) in Nepal.
 
While the above may be a coincidence, the Ruling Party headed by Dahal the Chairman held a virtual meeting with the Chinese Communist Party leaders at the NCP Office headquarters in Kathmandu the next day.  Dahal was the Chief Guest and it was also attended by Ishwor Pokhrel the Deputy Prime Minister and many others.  Notable absentees were Oli ( it would have been too hot for him), Madhav Nepal, Bam Dev Gautham and Narayan Kaji Shrestha.  
 
It is claimed that the Foreign Affairs Department in Nepal was unaware of the meeting and its Deputy Chief Surendra Karki distanced himself from the meeting saying that it was not the right time to hold such a meeting. He said “There is tension at the India-China border and we are holding a meeting with one of the conflicting Parties.”  Such activities will harm our credibility he said.
 
Dahal the Chief Guest told his Chinese counterparts on the MCC ( Millenium Challenge Corporation of USA) that Nepal will not accept any foreign assistance if there is any military or security interest attached or if any of the provisions contradict the Constitution of Nepal. He also expressed his “satisfaction on Nepal’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative of China.”
 
This meeting was taking place at about the same time when the Prime Minister of India was briefing the leaders of the Indian Parties on the border clashes in the Galwan Valley.  
 
I am sure that Dahal was aware that a meeting by the Ruling Party headed by him with the Chinese would send a wrong Message to India and yet he went ahead with the meeting.  So much for Dahal who is lionized by some in India.  It is the same person who found shelter in India for eight and half years out of ten years of civil strife initiated by him and over 19000 lives were lost.   
With the passing of the Constitution Amendment bill, PM Oli has run out of “ Nationalist Gas” and will now have to come to grips with the ground realities in Nepal.
 
His Party Leaders who had rallied behind him in the border dispute with India to present a United Front, say that their patience is running out.  Oli is back to his old habits and has been acting unilaterally without consulting his Party Colleagues despite his undertaking in April to run the Government in consultation with the Party.
 
Oli does not have a majority either in the Standing Committee of the Party or in the Party Secretariat.  He had called off the Party Secretariat Meeting twice, the last one being on the 14th.  He has dodged and excused himself in holding the .44 member Standing Committee Meeting thrice. He needs to take a quick decision on the MCC proposed by USA but does not have the backing of the majority in the Secretariat.  Erstwhile Maoist members have all ganged up against him including Ram Bahadur Thapa who was said to be close to Oli.
 
On the Wuhan Virus front, incidence of cases has risen dramatically.  Worse is yet to come when the migrant labour from the Gulf returns.  It is said that 30,492 (as on 19th) swab samples are lying in laboratories all over the country waiting to be tested.  The results may take more than three weeks to come and more samples are due.  In some places testing has been stopped for want of adequate facilities.
 
Meantime, the Supreme Court has come down heavily on the Government for charging exorbitant rates for the returning Labour from abroad.  It asked the Government to use the Foreign Employment Welfare fund to repatriate Nepali Workers living abroad in highly “vulnerable” conditions.   This is expected to provide relief to tens of thousands of migrant workers who have been stranded in several countries due to Wuhan Virus and are unable to finance the hefty fares in chartered flights.
 
The Supreme Court also ordered the Government to immediately rescue Nepalis who have gone on foreign employment with labour permits and have made contributions to the Welfare fund.  The migrant workers had sent sent over 8.18 Billion Dollars as foreign remittances and the Government has collected 6 Billion Rupees as Welfare Fund.  Surely, the Workers have a right to ask the Government to spend the fund for the return of those workers who are struggling.
 
The Country’s economy is not doing well either.  Tax collection has been poor.  One Finance Ministry Official said that the Government would soon be unable to pay salaries, pensions and social security allowances and its bills.
 
As said that with India’s response on the border dispute being subdued and correct, there is no other distraction for Oli  to feed his Nationalist Rhetoric.  He needs to attend to other problems the country is facing besides watching his back as his own Colleagues in the Party are getting ready to oust him- unless China intervenes again.
 
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