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All Eyes on China, India as Nepal's Ruling Communist Party Heads for a Split

© AP Photo / Niranjan SheresthaA school student holds a Nepalese and Indian flag and wears a badge with a portrait of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he waits to welcome Modi in Kathmandu, Nepal, Friday, May 11, 2018
A school student holds a Nepalese and Indian flag and wears a badge with a portrait of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he waits to welcome Modi in Kathmandu, Nepal, Friday, May 11, 2018 - Sputnik International
In recent years, India has been wary of commenting on what it has described as Nepal’s internal matters, more so since the country’s new constitution came into effect in 2015. Nepal's Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli’s decision to dissolve the Parliament comes amid strained ties with New Delhi and warming ties with Beijing.

The ruling Nepal Communist Party is looking at a split after its head, Pushpa Kumar Dahal Prachanda, held a meeting with his supporters on Monday morning, a day after his party colleague, the country’s Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli called for a mid-term election by ordering the dissolution of Parliament.

Prachanda sought an explanation from Oli over his decision Sunday to suspend parliament, in a press note issued after the meeting.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Oli held a separate meeting with his own supporters to discuss the future course of action, an official statement from his office revealed.

While Oli’s decision has been sanctioned by President Bidya Devi Bhandari, it is likely to be challenged in the Supreme Court.

President Bhandari, for her part, swiftly endorsed Oli’s order, as she cited relevant articles (Articles 76 and 85) of the country’s new Constitution, which came into effect in 2015.

According to local media reports, Prime Minister Oli also met the Election Commission officials on Sunday evening and asked them to prepare for elections on 30 April and 10 May.

Several experts cited in Nepalese media claimed that the new Constitution didn’t accord the Prime Minister the right to dissolve a functioning parliament and the constitutional provisions cited by Oli only applied in the event of a hung parliament.

Oli's move, which comes amid criticism of his handling of the Covid-pandemic and a string of corruption allegations, has been described as "unconstitutional" by the Standing Committee of his own party as well as opposition parties, including the formerly ruling Nepali Congress.

At least 90 MPs from the ruling party endorsed a No-Confidence Motion against Oli over his decision.

The ruling Nepal Communist Party was formed in 2018 after the merger of two smaller Communist parties, one led by Prachanda and the other by Oli.

Oli’s decision triggered protests across major cities in Nepal on Sunday, prompting the Prime Minister to order the stationing of the army and police on streets.

All Eyes on China, India

Meanwhile, observers are closely watching China and India, Kathmandu’s two big neighbours which have been vying for influence in the Himalayan country.

Nepal’s Health Minister and several high-ranking health department officials are subjects of a federal probe into the alleged purchase of “substandard” medical equipment from Beijing. The allegations against Health Minister Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal led to student protests in the country earlier this year.

Oli’s Sunday decision also came amid strained ties with India, traditionally Kathmandu’s closest economic and defence partner. A newly-released map published by the Nepalese Parliament in June this year, which showed three disputed territories as part of Nepal, triggered a strong protest from New Delhi.

High-profile visits by Samant Goel, the head of India’s foreign intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), Indian Army chief General M.M. Naravane and most recently Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, have failed to find a solution to the impasse.

At the same time, Kathmandu’s ties with Beijing have improved under Oli; China last year overtook India as the largest foreign investor in the country. A visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Kathmandu last year saw Nepal sign a spate of connectivity and defence cooperation pacts with Beijing, in a sign of ever warmer ties between the neighbours.

Earlier this month, Oli’s government also agreed to Beijing’s longstanding demand to announce the new height of Mount Everest.

Social media users and commentaries in Nepalese media couldn’t help but notice the external factors that have been shaping Nepalese politics, even as they dwelt on the importance of “political stability” in Nepal for New Delhi.

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