By Santosh Ghimire
New Delhi, November 9: Former Prime Minister KP Sharma Olis’ attempt to rake in Nepali nationalism by lifting Kathmandu’s border line with India is an opportunistic bid to win the November 20 election, according to Nepalese experts.
Khadak Raj Joshi, one of Sudurpaschim province’s leading civil society activists, told India Narrative that “the elections give the main political parties another chance to stir up nationalist rhetoric. The question of sovereignty is, of course, there. on the board of anti-Indian nationalism”.
Hoping to stir up jingoism, Oli said at his inaugural rally on Friday that “We will not allow a single inch of our land to be encroached…We have released the national map [incorporating the Kalapani area]. Parliament approved it unanimously. I’m here to guarantee that [the area returns to Nepal].”
Oli was referring to a map, approved by parliament, which he had published as a former prime minister. It included the area claimed by India as part of Nepal.
Significantly, Oli chose the border area of Darchula, which includes the disputed area, for his first rally, with the clear aim of adopting a strident nationalist posture and avoiding the day-to-day issues that impact people’s lives. Ordinary Nepalese.
But some Nepalese observers believe Oli’s speech could backfire.
“People know that Kalapani (a point of contention) is just an election platform, nothing more. So as far as I know, this Kalapani platform will not be sold this time.”
“In the last elections, KP Sharma Oli, Deuba and even Prachanda said that they would regain territories in Kalapani by holding talks with India if they won the elections. See, that didn’t happen over the last five years when they ruled the country one after another.. Now the elections are coming and they are making it an election platform.Oli recently said that he will work to bring territories back to Kalapani We cannot trust him at all,” says Krishna Prasad Regmi, a resident of Dhangadhi, the temporary capital of Nepal’s Sudurpashchim province.
An article in the Nepalese daily Kathmandu Post quoted Uddhab Pyakurel, who teaches political sociology at Kathmandu University, as saying that the nationalist agenda of Oli’s CPN-UML party has “become obsolete now and is not going to attract votes significant to the party.
Bhaskar Gautam, another political commentator, claimed that “Oli does not follow his chops. While he is making big public remarks against India, we have seen him surrender to the southern neighbor many times.”
An editorial in the same newspaper also strongly criticized Oli’s polling strategy. “On Friday, the dual Prime Minister and UML Chairman, KP Sharma Oli, addressing a mass rally in Darchula district, which includes the occupied area, guaranteed that he would return to Nepal the lands that house currently Indian forces… The UML is obviously under pressure to shore up its votes as it faces a formidable foe in the five-party ruling alliance.As inflamed anti-Indian sentiments have traditionally been an election platform effective in Nepal, he chose this easy way out. But in doing so, the party and its president are doing the country a disservice.”
The montage, however, praised outgoing Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Thapa and another former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai for not indulging in competitive jingoism.
“Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba responded to Oli’s statement, saying bilateral dialogue rather than electoral grandstanding was the need of the hour. On this issue, Deuba and Bhattarai are right.”