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Sher Bahadur Deuba’s appointment as Nepal Prime Minister could reinvigorate ties with India

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In a coup of sorts, Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba succeeded KP Sharma Oli as Prime Minister of Nepal on Tuesday in what could open new dynamics in Kathmandu’s ties with India. Oli had warmed up to India in recent months after flip flopping but Deuba could tilt towards New Delhi given his old associations.

This is the fifth time that 74-year-old Deuba is returning to power as the Prime Minister of Nepal. His appointment is in line with the ruling issued by the Supreme Court on Monday to make way for his claim to premiership, replacing incumbent K P Sharma Oli.

India has always been on good terms with Deuba.

Previously, Deuba served as Nepal’s Prime Minister four times from June 2017-February 2018, June 2004-February 2005, July 2001-October 2002 and September 1995-March 1997. In June 2017, when Deuba became Prime Minister, he visited India in August of the same year.

Deuba began his political career being the Chairman of the Far-Western Students Committee. He then became founding member and President of the Nepal Students Union during 1971 to 1980. He was active in promoting multi-party democracy in Nepal during the National referendum in 1980. He was the Police In Charge of Nepali Congress in the Far Western region in 1991. He served as the Head of the high-level recommendation committee for the resolution of Maoist problem from December 1999 to October 2000. It is no secret that India has all along maintained cordial ties with Nepali Congress.

Deuba is required to seek a vote of confidence from the House within 30 days of his appointment as the Prime Minister, as per constitutional provisions.

The Supreme Court on Monday overturned Prime Minister Oli’s May 21 decision to dissolve the House of Representatives and ordered the appointment of Deuba as prime minister.

The five-member Constitutional Bench led by Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana said that Oli’s claim to the post of prime minister was unconstitutional.

The Apex Court which on Monday reinstated the May dissolved House of Representatives also has removed the provision of “whip” (directive issued from a political party to ensure attendance and voting in debates) on parliamentarians.

Although the apex court’s order has paved the way for Deuba to become a new prime minister, for now, Deuba will have to secure majority votes in the parliament to survive as prime minister for the remaining term of parliament.

After months of intraparty rift, the rival faction of ruling CPN-UML under the leadership of Madhav Kumar Nepal has separated itself out from the alliance formed to fight against caretaker PM Oli.

The two factions in the UML (one led by Oli and other by Nepal) on Sunday evening have reached a 10-point agreement to bury their hatchet. After Monday’s verdict, Nepal faction has announced to unify with the party ending earlier formed alliance.

A total of 146 members of the House of Representatives (HoR) reached out to Supreme Court with a writ petition to demand the restoration of house and appoint Sher Bahadur Deuba, as next Prime Minister on May 24.

The petitions at that time included a total of 61 members of the House of Representatives from the Nepali Congress, 49 from the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), 23 from the Madhav Nepal faction of CPN-UML, 12 from UpendraYadav-BaburamBhattarai of JanataSamajbadi Party and one from Rashtriya Janamorcha Nepal.

While claiming the Prime Ministership back in May, Deuba had presented signatures of 149 lawmakers to prove that he commanded majority to lead a new government. Now Deuba falls short of 23 votes which he earlier use to have from Madhav Nepal led faction of CPN-UML.

Nepal President Bidhya Devi Bhandari had refused to allow Deuba to form a new government as per Article 76 (5) and dissolution of the House.

With Oli failing to secure vote of confidence on May 10, Bhandari on May 13 had appointed Oli prime ministerunder Article 76 (3) of the constitution as the leader of the party with the highest number of members in the House.

A week after his appointment, Oli on May 20 in a sudden move recommended that the President invoke Article 76 (5) to choose a new prime minister. It’s the President who initiates Article 76 (5) when a prime minister appointed under Article 76 (3) fails the trust vote. Oli, however, neither sought the trust vote nor resigned, thereby creating a situation in which a prime minister was asking the President to appoint a prime minister.

Soon after the verdict of Supreme Court to reinstate the lower house, overturning decision of President Bidhya Devi Bhandari to dissolve the parliament in recommendation of KP Sharma Oli protests has erupted in Nepali capital against it.

Leaders have termed it as an attempt by the judicial body to exercise more power.

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