Why does Oli revel in controversy?

Binod Bhandari


The issuing of revised map incorporating lands up to Limpiyadhura followed by the amendment of the constitution inspired people to adulate PM KP Sharma Oli as an audacious and “nationalist” leader for the second time. First time he received such accolades was when he took firm stance during the Indian blockade of 2015 that had rewarded his party with almost two-third majority in the last election.

On the flip side, there is a high probability that a nationalist leader will incline toward jingoism. While KP Oli’s real nationalist image could be separately debated, his recent unconscionable and extreme statements prove him an ultra-nationalist.

Owing to the overconfident and bigotry-filled statements, he has often been labelled as autocratic in social media. And now he is in the path of chauvinism because of his series of extreme statements targeting the most closed neighbour. But we cannot endure next Hitler or an autocrat in the name of stable government.

Recently he made a statement, “Lord Ram and his birthplace Ayodhya belong to Nepal, and India has faked the birthplace.” He stated this perhaps to gain some brownie points in national politics but it only adulterated the long-held friendly relationship between two countries.

Several controversial remarks, unverified claims and flippant assertions from PM Oli has long been noticed in domestic affairs. However, his unfettered remarks are gradually transcending the limit because the recent one is sure to jeopardize the international diplomatic relationship.

“India is making ploy to oust my government”- his earlier statement was not only criticised in the public sphere but it also steered his party to the brink of splitting. Since there was already discontent among the party cadres, this blatant statement accelerated the internal conflict. Consequently, his own party leaders sought his resignation from both the posts: Prime Minister and Chairman.

“The virus from India side is more lethal than from China”- his unwarranted claim appeared in the midst of pandemic few months back. This statement incensed Indian news channels which were already casting aspersions against Nepal with fictitious arguments about the border issue.

Is Oli playing politics deliberately with such remarks? Is there any possibility that he wants to change the political discourse in another direction to conceal his incapability in handling Covid-19 ? Or is it only the outcome of his loose tongue?

Anything can happen in politics because politicians are apt in doing things that normal people can’t easily understand. Whatever the reasons, Oli shouldn’t make flippant comments targeting India. Here are few reasons why.

Loss of nationalist image

Oli was once acclaimed as a nationalist owing to the stance he took during the blockade from the Indian side. Some people argue that it requires separate intellectual debate because there were no diplomatic efforts from Oli’s side to end the blockade then while people endured hardships. However, it is one of the primary reasons that he steered the political course in his favour through elections. And now his nationalist image is about to wane because of his offensive and controversial remarks.

It takes hard time to gain public belief but a single blunder will destroy the popularity in an instant. There will be no reason to trust the PM if he frequently makes false statements and flippant remarks over serious issues. People expect responsible and balanced opinion from the head of government. In addition, why shouldn’t people deem our PM as ultra-nationalist when he cherishes in advancing polemics that could interfere into the long-held bilateral understanding?

Putting the issue of LLK in jeopardy

The amendment in the constitution to include the lands of Lipulekh-Limpiyadhura-Kalapani in Nepal’s Map was highly acclaimed by Nepali people. However, this action has neither solved the border issue nor guaranteed that those lands will be returned to Nepal. It is a bilateral issue and should be resolved only through diplomatic talks in cordial and healthy environment.

Oli’s recent statements will only muddy the atmosphere of diplomatic dialogues between two countries. We cannot expect fruitful political dialogue any soon because of his irresponsible assertions. Even if we may have strong evidences regarding disputed lands, the chances of getting them back is becoming slimmer.

Furthermore, it was almost apparent that India has deliberately delayed the dialogue over the border issue. Previously formed secretary level mechanism was expected to work actively but it turned out to be only a formality, especially due to lack of interest from the Indian side. Therefore, it requires responsible and practical approach from Nepal’s side to settle this problem.

The PM’s recent statements only lead to an incitement that may influence the long-held relationship between the citizens. This is because Nepal and India share a unique relationship of friendship and cooperation characterised by open borders and deep-rooted people-to-people contacts of kinship and culture.


Current crisis management could be affected

At a time when Nepal is striving to contain the infection with limited resources, our government should not waste time in other issues at least for some time. This is because there are several crucial actions needed to be done shortly.

First, the improvement of unhygienic and unscientific quarantines is overdue. Second, it is reported time and again that the collected swab samples have been left untested for long because of limited kits. Clearly, the need of broadening the tests has soared. Third, practical preparedness and plans are required because the currently relaxed lockdown is sure to augment infection rate. Furthermore, the wrecked economy has hit every sector for which the mitigating and relief programmes are expected as soon as possible. When KP Oli throws controversial remarks, Nepal’s political environment is disturbed which could also affect the working atmosphere of government.

Nepali politics has long endured Oli’s flippant and irresponsible statements and the trend didn’t stop even during the pandemic. Whether about the issue of immunity power or the chemical composition of novel coronavirus, he was criticized frequently. Despite this, he loves to make controversial remarks and recent statements have transcended the limits.

Why does he love to present unverified statements? Does he seek suggestions and comments from advisors and experts before making such claims? His statements prove that he doesn’t.

Leaders may differ the style how they present their views and opinions. But those who hold the responsible post should understand the importance of their words. Statement of ministers and the PM is the official opinion. PM Oli should stop spouting superficial and controversial speeches and should seek the experts’ advice before making any claim on serious issues. Also, he should change his teams if they are feeding him misinformation or not doing their works honestly.

The writer is Head/Lecturer at Department of Electrical Engineering, Kathmandu Engineering College.

Published on 16 July 2020