Oli’s political manoeuvres

Purushottam Poudel


Prime Minister and ruling Nepal Communist Party Chairman KP Sharma Oli’s arbitrary attitude in running the government and the party has generated a strong oppositional voice against him even within his party. For the past six months, his premiership has been in jeopardy due to his inflexible attitude.

In a bid to stifle the growing voices of abhorrence, Oli has decided to captivate politics at his will. As a result, he is reluctant to continue with the standing committee meeting of his party.

A constitutional head, President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, has worked to boost Oli’s self-confidence. Securing President’s approval for every illicit political move has unyoked him. This resulted in the postponement of the summer session of the parliament amid the internal animosity of the party.

Oli decided to adjourn the parliament on the bases of information provided by his kitchen cabinet. The information was that the opposition group within his party was to file a no-confidence motion against him in the parliament. Based on this misinformation, he decided to prorogue the parliament for his vested power interest.

Has political stability been a curse rather than a boon for Nepal? If it has, it’s due to the erratic demeanour of an individual in power. When the political events are charting the opposite course, questions about political stability have started to rise.Nevertheless, stability necessarily doesn’t mean the continuity of a person in a power. Instead, it’s a strong foothold of a system or the institutions. If the malevolent use of power, for example two recent ordinances (Constitutional and the Political Party), is called stability, full stop for the power of person becomes a high desire.

When a leader of the country that is at a hot seat of geo-strategy indulges himself in the politics of suspicion and hatred it’s a matter of worry. This is no recent phenomenon as Oli built his political career by issuing blunt statements, aimed to defame his own comrades. Those who know him closely might not have a distinct opinion on this.

Situationalism versus Dispositionalism

In his book Political Psychology: Situations, Individuals and Cases writer David Patrick Houghton argues that many politicians while making their foreign policy decisions rely on the situational or the dispositional factors. American writer Philip Zimbardo in his book The Lucifer Effect has extensively discussed the situational and dispositional factors that can play a significant role in making a political decision. The situation is related to the environment and the disposition of the personal character.

No doubt, one can argue, every decision could be situational, since our dispositions are partly shaped by the situations we experience throughout our lives. After all, human behaviour is a composition of situation and disposition but what prevails is of importance.

Political decision is proportional to the willpower or the intention of a leader. Nevertheless, if the intention is just for stability of the regime, it could be a matter of disaster for the country. At the same time, verdict taken in favour of the country will magnify the posture.

For precedent, the decision of the then Prime Minister BP Koirala to establish diplomatic relations with Israel was situational. While mentioning the background of diplomatic relations between Nepal and Israel in the Asia Survey journal (Vol-9, 1969) writer Richard J. Kozicki writes, “The immediate international scene posed a difficult series of challenges for Nepal and her object of achieving a balanced foreign policy due to the deteriorating relationship between Sino-India”. Then PM Koirala had established diplomatic relations with Israel to save Nepal amid the growing tension between two neighbouring countries. It is believed that Nepal had taken this step to keep the two neighbouring countries in balance by forging ties with Israel, which had seceded from Palestine with the help of the United States. The decision to coin closer ties with Israel was a way to be close with the United States which was the product of situation and was in favour of national interest.  

Oli cannot be compared with Koirala. However, when it comes to Oli’s foreign policy decisions, they are prone to the disposition rather than the situation. In 1990s, despite repudiation from his UML party members, Oli, who wasn’t in a decisive position at that time, had played a significant role to pass the Mahakali Treaty with India. The treaty has benefited him politically.

Accused of elevating his political course with the help of India, Oli came close to China at the moment of building his political power. This was the year 2015. Oli approached China to face the economic blockade imposed by India whose interests weren’t addressed in the Nepal’s Constitution 2015.

He signed a trade and transit agreement with China after the crisis in relations with India and promised to bring the Chinese train in five years. He won the last elections on this plank and became the PM.


It seems he is now using the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to maintain his power as an executive head. Although India and China are stigmatized for meddling in the internal politics of Nepal (hyperactivity of the Chinese embassy in Nepal has given a proper indication), they aren’t interested in Oli as they were.

One of media representatives in Chinese embassy in Kathmandu, while having conservation with the scribe, said that ‘China is worried about keeping NCP unified rather than securing future of the government.’ One can think that this could be a blanket statement to cover up the Chinese’s covert intention but it could also mean that China has started showing its disinterest for PM Oli.

One of the reasons Oli couldn’t lure the Chinese this time is his stubbornness towards inviting the MCC. Chinese ambassador Hou Yanqi, during a press meet in the January, had said that China has no opinion about the MCC as Nepal can make a suitable decision for herself.’ But the source close to the embassy told the scribe that even though the MCC is a bilateral issue between Nepal and the US, China is concerned about its relation with the Indo-Pacific Strategy.

Oli is all for securing parliamentary endorsement of the MCC from the parliament while the majority members of the NCP Secretariat are against it. Oli is explicitly advocating MCC and the American embassy in Nepal is pushing the agenda hard, can we say that the US has a role in averting Oli’s power crisis?

The writer is a freelancer.


Published on 28 July 2020