What makes Oli invincible?
Bindesh Dahal The conflict bedevilling incumbent Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has not reached any meaningful conclusion. Parleys between two chairmen PM KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” are ongoing but the impasse continues.
Reeling under the weight of Oli’s mismanagement of the party and the government, opponents inside the party are united to depose him. This throw-Oli-out mission has been gaining traction for last one year but Oli has managed to defeat it by throwing one political card after the other.
But things have gone so far that the party appears to be on the verge of a split. Given the history of innumerable instances of communist factions uniting and splitting, the “artificial” unification of CPN-UML and Maoist Centre some two years back seems to have reached its expiry date.
Oli has been claiming that more than the pre-poll alliance (ultimately leading to the formation of NCP) his nationalist stance had ensured communists’ landslide victory in the federal and provincial elections. People gave him the mandate to head the government for the full tenure. Therefore, he chose to ignore Co-chair Prachanda’s pleas to take turns in assuming prime ministership during the current tenure. He even disallowed Prachanda to become the de facto executive chair, reducing him to a ceremonial status.
Feeling pushed to the corner by Oli, Prachanda shook hands with other leaders in the party who are also nursing grievances against Oli. The rival faction leaders’ bottom line is that Oli needs to resign from the post of the PM and also from the chairman. This demand is anathema for Oli and he maintains that he won’t resign from any post.
Oli is confident that his rivals won’t be able to even shake his single hair. He has bluntly told them that he will split the party if push comes to shove. This attitude shows that Oli can go to any length to keep his chair intact, the party be damned.
That Oli can do anything to remain in power is also seen in his undiplomatic utterance last week when he directly accused India of being active in toppling his government in cahoots with the leaders inside NCP. By saying this, he tried to paint his rivals as Indian stooges to generate in Nepali people a sense of hatred against them. This statement further dug the chasm between leaders in the NCP.
Grapevine has it that Oli can even split the party and make a coalition government with the largest opposition party Nepali Congress as they have a common interest in securing parliamentary ratification for the American project Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC).
Oli and chief opposition leader Sher Bahadur Deuba are learnt to have met and discussed about this issue. The US is keenly interested in having MCC passed from the Nepali parliament and is frustrated that the project has been vilified by Oli’s rivals in the NCP. Given its desperation in implementing MCC in Nepal, it may inspire strange bedfellows to ensure that happens.
Threatened by the prospect of the party split, NCP leaders seem to have explored a middle way. It is learnt that a five-point draft has been prepared for a broad consensus among party leaders. The draft proposes to provide full authority to Prachanda as the executive co-chair of the party, a government-operation mechanism under the leadership of Madhav Kumar Nepal to monitor and guide government activities, cabinet reshuffling with powerful portfolio to leaders of rival factions, appointments and reappointments in vital posts, and respectful division of responsibilities inside the party.
Even if Oli agrees to all these points for now there is no guarantee that he will abide by them. He will ensure that Prachanda does not gain power in the party given Prachanda’s history of divide-and-rule strategy. The proposed government monitoring mechanism will be a toothless tiger as its constitutional and legal justification will surely be challenged at the Supreme Court. Cabinet reshuffling may take place but Oli won’t provide high-end ministries to the rivals. Other proposals may also meet the same end.
For now, it seems that Oli’s opponents in the party have to make do with his supercilious attitude as he is immensely powerful and they can do nothing to unseat him. Their weakness in being unable to cash in the opportunity when the majority of Standing Committee and Secretariat members are against Oli tells it all.
He has been able to put India into defensive position with the issuance and parliamentary endorsement of Nepal’s new political map as it is unable to do anything beyond issuing bovine official statements and taking guilty pleasure in Indian media’s Oli derangement syndrome. Oli enjoys China’s backing as seen in the hectic meetings of Chinese envoy Hou Yanqi with NCP leaders. The US is also in his favour because it believes that he is serious in ensuring parliamentary ratification of MCC. Chief opposition leader is in league with him and the President is under his thumb.
This power position has made Oli invincible and he is emboldened enough to prorogue the parliament even if the House did not lack business. Common Nepali people are crying under the utter mismanagement of the government but it leaves no impact on Oli.
Oli, by using political stratagem to secure his post, has further contributed to the generation of apathy in Nepali people for the current political system. The bitter bickering inside NCP has muddied the political process and has frustrated people so much that there is a possibility of uprising against existing polity.
The anarchy loosed upon Nepal for the last 30 years seems to have reached its apogee, inspiring people to opt for a drastic change in current state of affairs. Only time will tell whether that change is good or bad for the country.
Published on 7 July 2020