Nepal has a history of the Rana regime (1901-1948), coup d’état led by King Mahendra who dismissed the elected government of B.P. KoiralaiIn 1960 and then imprisoned him which had been responsible for the launch of the democracy movement thereby finally restoring the parliament in 1991.
But democracy is still fragile and could not strengthen its roots which took 24 years to draft and adopt the constitution on Sept 20, 2015. The validity and spirit of the constitution is under ‘threat’ as Nepal has plunged into serious crisis due to direct confrontation between President Bidya Devi Bhandari and Deuba’s coalition government.
The crises have been compounded owing to impeachment motion pending in parliament which was brought by ruling dispensation against chief justice Cholera Shumsher Rana on the basis of allegations of corruption hence he is reportedly under house arrest though he made an unsuccessful attempt to resume the work in the supreme court.
Nepal’s decision to put on hold India’s plan to recruit 40,000 Agniveers under existing agreed system between two countries may create bitterness as Delhi might redistribute these posts which was recently officially announced by army chief, General Manoj Pande.
Constitutional crisis create instability
The coalition government comprising Nepali Congress, Communists faction led by Pushpa Kamala Dahal Prachanda, Upendra Yadav,Terai areas’ Janata Samajbadi Party and Madhav Kumar Nepal faction of Communist Party of Nepal (UML) is in soup as Nepal’s president, Bidya Devi Bhandari has refused to sign the citizenship amendment bill to give rights to about 5,00,000 Nepalis men and women who will be benefited from this amendment.
As per the bill “a person born at the time when his/her father or mother was a citizen of Nepal, shall be a citizen of Nepal by descent. Similarly, a child born out of wedlock by a Nepali female citizen to a foreign national shall get citizenship.” A bill earlier passed by previous communist regime headed by K.P.S Oli was having a provision that a cooling off period of 7 years was mandatory to obtain citizenship.
But the bill was amended by present coalition government headed by Sher Bahadur Deuba which seems to be a root cause of the crisis as President Bidya Devi Bhandari has refused to endorse it though the parliament has adopted it twice which makes it obligatory for her to sign it.
India had expressed its apprehensions about the injustice being done with Terai people (Medheshish) adjoining the states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh etc., and coalition partners had promised to settle this issue after the defeat of Oli government on the floor of the parliament in May, 2021.
China tries to exploit the volatile situation
To fish in the troubled waters coupled with China’s ambition to wean away friendly nations from India to establish its supremacy in Asia, besides main opposition, CPN-UML having Pro Dragon stance, have been adding fuel to the fire hence openly supporting President Bhandari who has blocked the citizenship bill.
Experts say that Bhandari had dissolved the parliament arbitrarily and acted in an artisan manner on Dec 20,2020 and subsequently refused to give an opportunity to Deuba to form an alternate government. At this juncture, the supreme court had to come to the rescue of Democracy and directed her to follow the constitution.
The Chinese embassy in Kathmandu had openly lobbied with communist factions and pressured them to remain united to create hurdles in the formation of the present coalition government led by Nepali Congress which is considered Pro-India.
In contravention of the conditional obligations, Bhandari also recently attended a virtual meeting of the Chinese Global Security Initiative despite strong reservations of the government.
Impact of India’s plan
Army chief Gen, Manoj Pande has made it clear that India may be forced to withdraw vacancies for enlisting soldiers from Nepal under its new Agnipath scheme in the ongoing recruitment cycle. Scholars in Kathmandu say that such an action of India can have adverse implications on the age-old relationship with Nepal as China is poised to exploit it. Dragon has already made serious Inroads in Nepal over the years. Experts feel that China can incite Nepal to give fillip to Anti- India sentiments though the present coalition government is headed by Nepali congress prime minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba who is considered as a Pro-India and may resist it tooth and nail.
Nepal’s government has conveyed to New Delhi that recruitment under Agnipath scheme will violate the Tripartite Agreement signed between the then British, India and Nepali government in 1947 which ensures recruitment in the Indian army and guarantee of equal pay, pension and other facilities at par with Indians.
As per scheme, Agniveers will retire after four years who will get Indian rupees 1.71 million as Seva Nidhi package which will include accumulated amount with also permissible interest will be paid. But the Nepal government and different political parties strongly feel that Agniveers after retirement may not have any future and they can become a headache as employment opportunities do not exist in the Himalaya Kingdom due to backwardness and lack of industrialization.
Second, the ruling coalition may face the wrath of electorates during general elections as opposition is likely to make it an election issue. Third, Nepal government is piqued over India’s unilateral decision on Agnipath Scheme without informing or consulting it as it is violative of Tripartite agreement.
Indian army officials had planned to hold recruitment rallies at various places in Nepal and recruit, organize training for 25,000 in Dec and rest 15,000 in Feb next year but now the entire schedule has gone haywire due to the negative response of the Nepal government. As per data, annual intake of Nepalese Gorkhas in the Indian army has gradually come down from 1500 to 4,000 per year. A senior Kathmandu based Journalist, Kanak Mani Dixit feels that Agnipath scheme will
have an adverse impact on ties between two countries besides creating negative influence in the Nepalis society. New scheme deprives Gorkhas of having a full career in the Indian army which runs against the sentiments of common people who perceive recruitment in the army as a privilege thereby leading to prosperity after retirement. The retired army generals in Nepal have got reservations about the scheme and feel that it might disturb the social fabric of the peaceful society as trained youths in weaponry and warfare will create problems as their career will be cut short to four years only. The frustrated youths can indulge in violence in the society as Nepal does not have employment opportunities either in government or private sector.
Impeachment motion against chief justice
The general elections in Nepal will be held in November this year and parliament has been adjourned which has complicated the matter of impeachment of chief justice Rana pending for disposal. Ruling and opposition parties are at loggerhead with each other on this issue hence compromise seems an extreme reality. More than hundred lawmakers of the Nepali Congress, the CPN (Maoist Centre) and the CPN (Unified Socialist) had registered an impeachment motion against the chief justice on February 13 leveling about three dozen corruption charges thereby leading to his suspension from the post. The suspended chief justice tried to resume office at the supreme court who was prevented by the security personnel. Now the government is in fix about impeachment motion which has created uncertainty in judiciary hence it warrants immediate solution.
Nepal and India ties may be affected
Nepal faces a serious challenge to handle an issue relating to a much touted Agnipath Scheme of government of India to recruit 40,000 Agniveers from different parts of Nepal has hit a roadblock. The Deuba government is in a fix to permit the recruitments which can be attributed to ensuing general elections in Nov this year and its potential to hit ruling party as suspicion reigns supreme about the future of those retiring after four years who can become a scrutiny threat to the country. The opposition is putting the ruling coalition in bad light as attempts are being made to highlight the scheme’s lacunae of having no provision of pension, uncertainty after retirement as recurrent is for 4 years only.
Nepal refuses to implement Agnipath scheme.
Due to the Nepal government’s decision to put the scheme on hold till general elections, it is possible that the Indian government may withdraw these vacancies which can snowball into a major controversy in Nepal and communists may put the coalition government on the mat.
Analysts opine that communists can lead the protest and it can be spearheaded by India
baiter, former prime minister, K.P.S Oli who has been holding India responsible for his unceremonious defeat in the parliament which was vehemently denied by foreign ministry in Delhi. The Oli regime was also responsible for redrawing the map which had shown some Indian
territories as the parts of Nepal.
Analysts opine that if Nepali congress and its allies retain power then there is optimism about the implementation of Agnipath Scheme in Nepal otherwise chances seem to be dim.
K.S.Tomar is political analyst and national columnist
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.