Saturday, April 17, 2021

Oli’s invincibility: Fact or fiction?


With the quashing of Nepal Communist Party (NCP) unification by the court, the Oli faction of NCP (now UML) is in a euphoric mood. Some members are even celebrating the victory, claiming Oli standing tall in Nepali politics. There are several reasons behind this euphoria.

The first one is that the faction got, almost out of the blue, a happy divorce from the disputing partner Prachanda-Nepal faction (which became Maoist Centre once again). In fact, both groups have been seeking for a separation but none has guts to take public blame for party splitting. The second reason is Madhav Kumar Nepal and his team had to return home shamelessly, hiding their tails, accepting Oli leadership in the party. The third reason is that many of the former leaders from Maoist camp have decided to remain within the Oli camp, irrespective of the risk of losing their political career.

Finally, Oli government is still in power, intact, with the members still enjoying the perks and privileges. Hence, it is openly challenging its opponents to topple the government if they can, through filing no-trust motion in the parliament. Oli is also taunting the parliament by showing himself on and off. He has not felt an iota of guilt over his earlier decision to dissolve the parliament.       

Earlier, the court overturned Oli's decision to dissolve the parliament ruling it to be unconstitutional, and the mood of the Oli faction was no less dampened. While the opposing political parties were demanding his resignation on moral grounds, Oli faction was rationalizing that the court ruling nowhere spells out PM’s resignation on moral grounds, instead arguing that court ruling effectively prevented him from resigning because it is his responsibility to implement court order. They even argued that the court verdict has in fact strengthened his position. He is claiming to be an indestructible ironman.  

An invincible figure

At the superficial level, the unfolding of political events does give an impression of Oli becoming an invincible figure. He seems to be having an upper hand in country’s politics. With Maoist Centre still undecided over withdrawing their support to Oli Government or not being able to file a fresh no-trust motion and oppositional political parties in disarray over the formation of next government, it does give an impression of Oli becoming a political superman.     

However, the story underneath could be different. PM Oli’s open diatribe against his opponents could be more fiction than fact.

Oli has already met several members from Janata Samajawadi Party (Jasapa), possibly garnering their support to form next government in case the Maoist Centre withdraws their support. His arch rivals may have returned home with a whimper but PM Oli has an enemy within to deal with and enemy within is far more dangerous than the enemy outside. There is already news from western Nepal about infighting between party cadres belonging to two factions. This does not herald good news to CPN (UML).

Withdrawing support vs benefits of no-trust motion

It is understandable why Comrade Prachanda is not withdrawing Maoist Centre support to Oli government. Such a move will definitely turn Oli Government into a minority and he will be forced to resign or take a vote of confidence in the parliament. But it will give him a breathing space of 30 days. In politics, even a week could be more than enough to play around. This could be the reason why Maoist Centre has kept quiet over the issue of withdrawing their support. It is more interested in filing no-trust motion against Oli Government. For this will immediately topple Oli government. By the same reasoning, Maoist Centre is calling for his resignation on moral grounds.

Compared to three political parties in opposition, PM Oli can partner with anyone to form a coalition government. Opposition parties have to form a joint coalition of three political parties. Definitely, PM Oli enjoys some strategic advantage here. However, his fear of losing power outweighs opponents’ desire to get into power and this, essentially, puts him in an unfavourable bargaining position. Jasapa is already reported to have demanded prime post during election time. If he wants to survive, PM Oli definitely has to sacrifice more than what is expected in return. And this will obviously ire his party men.

Days are numbered

With his political acumen, PM Oli may extend his tenure by a couple of months, using state largesse to pull vulnerable opponents. But his days are essentially numbered. There is a near consensus amongst the opponents that he must be shown the exit door as a sanction against his unconstitutional move to dissolve the parliament. If he keeps holding onto power without tendering resignation, he will be strengthening the moral grounds of the opponents. In Nepali politics, definitely, power and pelf may be used to survive for a while, but, in the long run, politics do rest on moral grounds. And this is where Oli has failed to stand.    

Published on 14 March 2021