Nepal’s political drama – Prachanda the new PM, but wait


Nepali Congress party, the largest and the oldest liberal democratic force, has won the 2022 winter federal parliamentary elections of Nepal but failed to achieve a clear majority to form a government on its terms independently. The election results came out quite fragmented. But most importantly, since the Maoist Center Party’s Prachanda went to the extent of breaking his electoral alliance with Nepali Congress and siding with the opposition leader Oli – a big-time rival of Deuba and Prachanda or at least it seemed that way over the last few months — to become the PM, it was a clear defiance of all the logics in a normal scenario. Prachanda’s party came out third in the elections. Prachanda was the rebel leader of the Maoist insurgency in Nepal between 1996-2006. It is his third time as PM of Nepal.

(See which party got how many seats here)

One should note that in Nepali politics the major parties and leaders have not respected any principle or ideology but merely a coalition of interests to control the most powerful executive position – PM. Therefore, although the breaking of Prachanda and Deuba alliance seems unbelievable on the surface, anything is possible in Nepali politics. Reportedly, Deuba was unwilling to concede what he had promised to Prachanda earlier – a rotational basis PM and the first turn for Prachanda. However, Deuba apparently had other ambitions – realizing that Prachanda had no option but to stick with him — Deuba thought he could not just continue to have PM but also eyed the ceremonial presidential position for his party. As a result, Prachanda decided to go to Oli dumping Deuba and the Congress voters who voted for Prachanda as ally. I

Talking about Prachanda, he is a rebel leader who not just led an armed insurgency in Nepal but also succeeded to take it to a “logical conclusion” – Maoist movement succeeded to end the monarchy of Nepal, change the constitution of Nepal via constitutional assembly elections and established secularism as opposed to a Hindu state. Maoists can also be attributed to uplifting the identity and rights of many marginalized communities of Nepal. However, all these have come at the cost of maximum violence and loss of thousands of lives. Moreover, Prachanda has failed to convince the international community as far as the transitional justice – truth and reconciliation commission – is concerned. He and his Maoist rebel fellows have sought blanket amnesty for all the crimes committed by them during the insurgency.

Moreover, what bothers Prachanda a lot is the fact that there are several forces who want to go back to the status quo ante – he calls them a reactionary force – to re-establish a Hindu monarchy and all the traditional values they thought they upturned. He also senses that even large parties prefer to do so if got the opportunity. To make matter worse for him, pro-king party RPP, including some independents, have fared very well in the elections. Consequently, he consistently sees it necessary he be in power and applies all kinds of political cunning to achieve that. In addition, his own personal ambition to end up his politico-rebel career either as a president or a several-time prime minister of Nepal also plays an important role in his behavior of seeking the political helm all the time.

Prachanda — a romantic-revolutionary — is a figure that has fascinated many Nepalis. On the one hand he led the most violent insurgency in Nepal in its recent history but presents himself as a very sentimental guy with a sense of humor and sometime appeared dancing with a Nepali actress. He himself says that he had an ambition to be a pilot and also tried to get into the Nepalese army but failed. He always tells his story putting him at the center of the world starting from his student life to political life. Prachanda who did not even wear a flipflop throughout his primary schooling in Chitwan district Nepal, recounts that he was a sharp student and a natural peacemaker. He was sought by everybody to resolve disputes, he claims.

Prachanda has always argued in favor of communist parties uniting but would not do so until he would be the leader of the movement. In Nepal communist movement, which has a history of several splits and unions, but mainly fragmented, leaders’ personalities and nuances in their ideological differences have always mattered. The fight is always about who takes up the baton. Of late, Nepal communists have “degraded” so much that their coalitions and alliances have cross all the boundaries. Even on the liberal side the Nepali Congress has also tempted to join hands with erstwhile enemies as need arise to try and stay in power. Congress-Maoists alliances are the cases in point here.

Therefore, no wonder, as some leaders have disclosed of late, the Prachanda and Deuba “alliance” was not how it was portrayed — there were already lot of suspicions and divisions simmering. So, Prachanda and Oli and other stakeholders had been having some talks and new possibilities were discussed even before the day Prachanda took such a “dramatic” decision. Congress leader Deuba is also notorious for promoting his wife Araju Rana, a controversial figure, as a de facto Congress leader which many claims that is one of the reasons why Deuba fails to take his party to the right direction. This time he certainly has miserably failed. n Nepal’s political parties, it’s the party chair/president alone that calls the shot, leaders of lower ranks simply follow the order, and have no say. Anyone who dares will do so at the cost of his political career. The UML’s self-claimed ideologue – Ghanashyam Bhusal — who tried to lead the UML to a new ideological direction managed to disturb Oli to the extent that now he has been left out in the cold.

Again, one should note that in Nepal especially lately a politics of revenge has become very strong – Prachanda and some Oli’s own UML colleagues betrayed him by splitting the Communist Party and making the opposition Deuba PM to oust Oli. It seems unsurprising that Oli used Prachanda to shock Deuba. Besides, Oli is getting the stake of Presidential position for his party as well. There is a deal on house speaker too. When many of Oli’s allies started to conspire to oust him, especially Prachanda, Oli had to resort to even manipulating the constitution, the whole drama had ended by seeing Deuba as the new PM with support of Oli’s ally Prachanda and Oli’s own UML buddy Madhav Nepal. Since then, Oli, Prachanda, Madhav, Bhusal and others have spent most of their times cursing each other. Nevertheless, as the adage goes that the politics is the game of possibility, all of Oli’s erstwhile detractors seem willing to cooperate with him now.

However, Prachanda still needs to get confidence vote at the parliament in few days – there has been reports about Mr. Deuba working behind the scenes to thwart Prachanda’s motion. In a bombastic news, Deuba has allegedly offered PM position to the chairman of the pro-royal party RPP Mr Rajendra Lingden to that end. If Deuba manages to convince Mr Lingden to leave the coalition with Prachanda, to whom he has already given his support, it will leave Prachanda short of overcoming the confidence motion. According to one RPP leader, “there has been an offer of PM, but we have not decided on that yet.” The UML leaders also react that they will not let Deuba succeed on this. In the meantime, the ruling coalition has worked out a common minimum program today including the RPP which is saying that it will also be part of the new government not just supporting Prachanda as PM.

In any event, although the Oli Prachanda rejoining is being portrayed as the old Communist party alliance being back, and that China has already shown its goodwill gestures – opening up long-closed border points — to endorse this new development, the reality is more complicated. This is not a communist joining hands or coming to form an alliance but simply a marriage of convenience — an unholy alliance — to have the perks of powerful position. Therefore, there is always possibility of any kind of changes in Nepali politics in the days to come.

Nepal Matters for America