Kathmandu: Since the Nepalese prime minister dissolved parliament in December, the Himalayan country has been engulfed in chaos, with massive protests and the ruling party split into two warring factions.
But for printer owner Umesh Babu Shrestha, the crisis has brought a welcome surge in requests, after he was unable to pay his rent for nine months as the pandemic halted business.
Now the flags of the various parties in Nepal – and the factions within them – are hanging from across the complex and dispersed political spectrum, drying in every nook and cranny of his Kathmandu store.
“Business has really improved.” This gave us hope that we can pay our dues now, otherwise there won’t be much other business, “Shrestha told AFP.
The scent of paint fills the air as red stars are stamped onto a piece of freshly cut fabric after another, before being suspended in long rows wherever there is.
The country’s demonstrations, which sometimes descended into ugly clashes as riot police fired water cannons, are a sea of colorful flags and banners.
Elements are indispensable accessories whether protesters return or oppose Prime Minister KB Sharma Oli, 69, a skilled former political prisoner who came to power in 2018 promising to end years of instability.
Hem Bahadur Shrestha, a local political leader, said the flags are “an indication of my identity and an indication of my ideology.”
Followers of other political parties may carry a different flag. “We are with the Communist Party of Nepal and this is our flag,” he said in one of his recent demos.
Another printing press owner, Kailash Shah, has not had a job for a whole year, but has now hired four new workers after receiving requests for knowledge from across the country of 29 million people.
Supermarkets now sell up to 3,000 flags a day, and demand is expected to remain strong even after the Supreme Court reinstated Parliament on Tuesday.
An initial dissolution of the legislature came after months of wrangling with former Maoist rebel leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who helped the prime minister come to power when their parties merged in 2018 into the Communist Party of Nepal.
An informal split in the party left Olli without a majority in parliament, and he will likely face a vote of no confidence soon, meaning elections in two years’ time.
“The protests have given us some relief … If elections are held, we might be able to gain a little more,” Shah said.