Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Cornered Oli

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In the parliamentary test held on 20 March, PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal garnered confidence votes of almost all political parties, saving UML and RPP, in the parliament. This time, even NMKP – an evergreen party in opposition, decided to stay neutral.

Out of a total of 262 MPs present at the time of voting, PM Dahal secured 172 votes in his favour, 89 against and one neutral. With the voting results, a chapter on Nepal’s fluid coalition government seems to have been closed. Or is it?

PM Dahal has assured that within a couple of days he will expand his Cabinet and he gets down to performing normal duties. Every newcomer government is expected to make a formal visit to India, possibly followed by a compensatory visit to China. How the PM is going to allocate 22 ministries among 10 highly aspiring political parties will be his next falam ko chiura to chew.

Dahal’s close ally Madhav Kumar Nepal has assured that the present coalition will stay intact for coming five years. This is in response to UML leader Bishnu Paudel’s remark that he hopes that the “PM does not need to stand for another round of confidence vote in April/May”.

A chapter on Nepal’s ongoing political feud may have been closed for a while but the things do not bode well. First, the body language of UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli resembles more like that of a cornered cat. Being the main leader of the opposition party, he did not speak a single word in the parliament and preferred to remain silent. It is amazing to see a man who loves spitting venom against his opponents and enjoys entering into verbal duets. Instead, he allowed his deputy Bishnu Paudel to speak on his behalf. Second, he neither bothered to congratulate PM Dahal nor shook hands with him immediately after voting results. As a show of displeasure, he left the meeting hall in a huff. Earlier, he avoided attending President Ram Chandra Paudel’s first ever thanksgiving meeting on his victory at Sheetal Niwas, with the federal and provincial parliamentarians.

Of the two wheels of Oli's bullock cart – RPP and RSP – clearly, RSP has betrayed him. With the Damocles’ sword of “double passports” hanging over RSP president’s head, it is relatively safer for RSP to join PM Dahal's camp. Moreover, by-elections are around the corner.

Either by design or default, Oli has been left to align with RPP – a pro-monarchist, anti-republic, anti-federal, anti-secular, pro-Hindu political outfit. Had it not been his antagonistic stand with Durga Prasai – a pro-monarchist on prowl, he too would have been labelled a pro-monarchist communist.

PM Dahal has asserted that present alliance is the natural grouping of like-minded people seeking to save the Constitution and democracy; loving republic, federalism and secularism. Confidence votes have completely isolated Oli and his party UML. 

Delivering his speech on the eve of parliamentary vote taking, PM Dahal did not fail to mention why he switched his camp from Oli. He cited two reasons. One, Oli’s threat to dissolve the parliament and two, disagreement to have a national consensus by sharing president post with Nepali Congress Party, the largest political party in the parliament, as a show of balancing state power. In December last year, he switched his camp from Sher Bahadur Deuba and joined hands with Oli with a power sharing agreement: Maoists to have PM, UML to have Speaker while these positions to be swapped after UML takes the turn on PM; UML to have the president and the Maoists to have the VP. The political equation was disturbed after Nepali Congress decided to give confidence vote to PM Dahal.   

PM Dahal has asserted that present alliance is the natural grouping of like-minded people seeking to save the Constitution and democracy; loving republic, federalism and secularism. Confidence votes have completely isolated Oli and his party UML.    

In Nepali, there is a saying, “a cornered cat is far more aggressive to attack than a freed one”. Now, completely surrounded by yes-men, Oli is definitely in a revengeful mood. UML, as a political party, is notoriously renowned for disrupting house proceedings. With his nominee Speaker, he can, literally, paralyse the workings of the parliament. By holding important bills related to truth and reconciliation, citizenship, constitutional council and others, Oli can paralyse the government. There are other possible sources of creating disturbances. These include UML’s access to union power – state employees' union, trade unions and students’ union.   

There are other cards in Oli's sleeve. Obviously, one such card is China. Recently, he showed one by falsely accusing the government allowing India to establish a university in Mustang district, close to Nepal-China border in the North. If China cards fail to work, he can resort to playing anti-India card or pro-nationalist card. This includes religious/spiritual cards as well. This has to wait till PM Dahal makes his trip to India.

The problem with Oli, with an inflated ego, is that he trusts nobody except himself. Remember, he did not take leave and appointed his deputy even during his kidney transplantation. One can fairly imagine the situation of a power-centric man when, within a minute, he is bereft of power.                

Published on 21 March 2023          

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