Prime Minister (PM) KP Sharma Oli has again attacked the Constitution and democracy after his first blow on December 20, 2020 failed. The motive is clear—to shred the Constitution into pieces and derail democracy.
He has full support of President Bidya Devi Bhandari in this motive. Not merely support, both of them are together in this motive. President Bhandari, therefore, threw away the written application submitted by 149 House of Representatives (HoR) members to form an alternative government as per the constitutional provision on Friday, and dissolved the HoR on recommendation of Oli.
The flimsy arguments President Bhandari used to usurp the constitutional rights of 149 lawmakers makes her motive clear. Issuing a statement in the midnight, she claimed that their claims were unjustified taking help of the false claims made by Oli. Oli had sent a letter to the President less than 24 hours earlier saying he has paved the way for formation of new government pointing he does not have confidence of the House.
She issued the notice saying claims of both Oli and Nepali Congress (NC) President Sher Bahadur Deuba are unjustified pointing at the false claims of Oli that he now has majority. She reasoned that the supporting lawmakers are repeated on both sides, they have supported candidate of another party against the party's decision, and the parties concerned have written to not recognize their signatures.
These arguments are false and baseless. First and foremost, President Bhandari's claim that the names of supporters are repeated is a blatant lie. None of the 149 lawmakers who signed to make Deuba the new PM have signed in favor of Oli. Oli rather had submitted a false letter lying that he has full support of all 121 CPN-UML lawmakers and 32 Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP) ones. Thirty-eight out of those 153 had signed in support of Deuba.
So much so that Oli implied that UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal and JSP leaders Upendra Yadav and Baburam Bhattarai, who were present in person while submitting the application supporting Deuba to President Bhandari, supported him.
Any lawmaker can sign supporting any other lawmaker who wishes to become PM under Article 76(5) of the Constitution. This provision has been kept in Article 76(5) of the Constitution precisely to ensure that any lawmaker who can muster support of majority lawmakers can form the government after the majority government, coalition government of two or more than two parties, and minority government of the largest party in the House all fail. If party whip were to be binding, there would be no meaning of keeping Article 76(5) of the Constitution.
The logic that President Bhandari gave pointing that Deuba could not be appointed PM as lawmakers have supported candidate of another party against the parties' decision, and the parties concerned wrote requesting her to not recognize those signatures, therefore, is groundless.
Let us assume for a while that a lawmaker cannot support lawmaker of another party or an independent candidate without decision of the party concerned even under Article 76(5) of the Constitution, and the party whip is valid and the Act related to political parties is attracted.
A lawmaker can defy the party whip not just in the context of Article 76(5) of the Constitution, but in election under any other article of the Constitution, or any other issue. That is counted as a valid vote in the House. That vote is not annulled. A lawmaker always has that right as a sovereign representative elected by the people.
The lawmaker definitely can be punished for defying the party whip, and can even lose the post of lawmaker as per the Act related to political parties. But there is no provision in the Constitution or any law in Nepal that stops a lawmaker from voting defying the party whip, or annuls the vote so cast.
Even if the lawmaker who signed in support of the lawmaker to be appointed PM under Article 76(5) of the Constitution were later to be punished in accordance to the law, our Constitution or law of the land does not grant any right to the President to reject the vote cast when the person is legally a lawmaker.
She could have verified authenticity of the signatures if she had any doubt. She could have even summoned those lawmakers to march at the President's Office within 24 hours and asked them to sign in person to establish whether the majority of lawmakers supported Oli or Deuba.
But she did not want to do that because that would have exposed Oli's lies. That step would have been against the motive she shared with him.
The whimsical attitude of Oli would have largely been reined in if President Bhandari had followed the system right from the beginning and complied with the Constitution. She continued to further nurture his growing whimsical attitude instead. She is, therefore, one of the main reasons behind the the current whimsical nature of Oli and his habit of taking arbitrary decisions on whims.
We should also not forget there is a very strong external dimension to the path against the Constitution and democracy that Oli has taken. It will metastasize further the more we delay to understand and publicly challenge that. Many had suspected right from the beginning that the outside hand was in play in dissolution of the HoR even on December 20. The maneuverings of the external powers have come to the fore after the House was reinstated.
They are openly operating to keep Oli in power in recent times. They first advised the main opposition NC to not form an alliance against Oli and later resorted to threatening language. They did everything to woo, threaten and split JSP lawmakers to support Oli. Why are they doing all this for Oli?
Chief of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) of India Samant Goel had arrived on an Indian Air Force plane while Nepal was in lockdown seven months back. He had a meeting with PM Oli at Baluwatar in the midnight without any representative of the Foreign Ministry. Records of even telephonic conversations of the US President with a foreign head of the state or government are kept. The records of the in-person meetings of US President with any foreigner are also kept. But there is no such record of the talk between Oli and Goel.
The Indian stance toward Oli suddenly changed after that midnight meeting. Oli unconstitutionally dissolved the House on December 20 without any reason just two months later. What if the conspiratorial attack on the House and Constitution Friday midnight was a result of that Oli-Goel meeting?
The way the Indians are working in recent times to stop formation of an alternative government and dissolve the House gives credence to such suspicions. This has also led to another suspicion. What is the Indian roadmap? How can one believe that the election will be held in November?
The country is reeling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands are testing positive every day while the daily death toll has hovered over 150 on average for more than a week. No one can say when the pandemic will wane. Some experts fear that we may be swamped by the third wave even before the second wave recedes. It is difficult to believe that an election can be held amidst such raging pandemic. There are not even grounds to believe that Oli intends to hold election. The Constitution will be in doldrums if the election cannot be held.
It's well-established that India does not like this Constitution or the House that amended the Constitution to incorporate the new map including the Nepali territories encroached by India. The strong CPN that it abhorred has been shattered due to division of CPN. Are these the objectives of India or is there more?
The history of many countries testifies that democracy and Constitution and democracy of small neighboring countries do not have any meaning in comparison to the ego and interest of big countries. There have been precedents that even existence of some small countries have not mattered before the interest and ego of these big countries.
Therefore, we must also be aware and vigilant about this external dimension while preparing to fight this arbitrary action of Oli. But there is no need to be frightened.
Our own history testifies that no despot or the external powers can do anything if all the citizens come together. This is the one lesson we should take from the Janaandolan II.
The struggle against the Oli's blatant attack on democracy and Constitution will be long and difficult. But it is the people who will ultimately prevail. The people have emerged victorious in every movement in Nepal right from 1951. The relevance of certain individuals for external powers is transient and they are ruthlessly disowned when their relevance ends. The external powers cannot continuously back an individual pushing the people aside for long even if they were to wish so.
The first battle in the struggle against Oli's attack against democracy and Constitution is the legal fight. The 149 lawmakers whose constitutional right to elect the new PM was denied should immediately move the court.
This case is less complicated that the ones lodged after the first dissolution. The Supreme Court in its verdict while reinstating the House then has explained the process through which the Article 76(7) can be exercised to dissolve the House establishing the rights of the lawmakers to provide an alternative government through Article 76(5) of the Constitution. The majority lawmakers should go to the court demanding that very right President Bhandari has usurped.
The battle to bring the Constitution and democracy on track should start from there. The rest should be gradually waged after that.