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With unpredictable politics, Nepal likely to remain in flux despite court ruling

Reports from Kathmandu say that Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has dug in his heels (IANS)

For Nepal, the political and constitutional crisis lingering from December 2020 continues to unravel despite the Supreme Court declaring Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli's decision to dissolve the House of Representatives unconstitutional. The apex court has ordered the winter session to be resumed within 13 days.

On Wednesday, the five-member constitutional bench of the Nepali Supreme Court reinstated the House of Representatives and ordered the government to call the new session of the Parliament by March 9.

Oli's decision to dissolve the House of Representatives had led to 13 petitions being filed before the Supreme Court.

In its defence, the government had said that the Prime Minister had the prerogative to dissolve the house as was the tradition in other parliamentary democracies. However, the other side said that Nepal had adopted a reformed parliamentary form of government which did not give the PM unlimited powers to dissolve the house.

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After the dissolution of the house in December, the Election Commission had called for two-phase elections on 30 April and 10 May. The dissolution had also intensified the squabbles of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP), which was being supported by China in a big way. NCP split into two with Oli heading one faction and the other led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda, and Madhav Kumar Nepal.

A concerned Communist Party of China  (CPC) sent its emissaries to Kathmandu to patch up differences between the NCP factions. The Chinese ambassador to Nepal, Hou Yanqi, too played a major role in trying to keep the party together. Over the past few years, China was able to sway Nepal not just because of the strong communist links, but also on account of its capacity to meet Nepal's economic needs.

The intense Chinese jostling to bring together Oli and Prachanda did not meet any success. In the meantime, Kathmandu and Delhi improved their relationship considerably with numerous high-level visits from Delhi.

Jubilant people came out on the streets in Kathmandu to celebrate the Supreme Court decision. However, they are also wary of how the politics will pan out as the court orders have galvanised political parties across the spectrum.

Nepal's political leaders now have to touch the 138 member mark to ensure that a government is formed as per the Supreme Court orders.

The Nepalese lower house has 275 members. The NCP has a total of 173 members while the Nepali Congress holds 63 seats. The Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP) has 32 members. The Kathmandu Post reports that Oli currently has the support of nearly 80 MPs, while the Dahal-Nepal team has about 90 MPs.

The newspaper conjuctures that the Nepali Congress with 63 seats is likely to support the the Dahal-Nepal faction. If that happens and the JSP with its 32 seats too comes together, they would easily oust Oli from the lower house. But the catch is that the NCP has to first split legally. Currently, the two factions are still seen as one by the Election Commission.

The political situation in Kathmandu is complex by all means.

The numerous options before the political parties are that Oli resigns and allows the formation of a new government. The other option is that Oli faces the house and proves his majority, otherwise he faces the no-confidence motion.

However, the signals from the Oli camp are that he is neither resigning nor going to go down without a fight. Surya Thapa, the Prime Minister's aide, wrote on Facebook that Oli will not resign. He said that the Prime Minister will face the parliament.

The political situation in Nepal remains in a flux. Though the media and the common man feel vindicated by the court ruling, it is clear that Nepal will witness many intense moments in days to come.