Here We Go Again: Fresh Political Trouble Brewing In Nepal As Oli Goes Back To Old Ways
Last week, Oli unilaterally made fresh appointments to the posts of chief secretary and ambassadors to the UK, USA, and South Africa.
Nepal seems to be headed for fresh political trouble with Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli reverting to his old ways and acting in a unilateral manner without consulting the party (i.e. the ruling Nepal Communist Party-NCP).
As per a reached between Oli and NCP co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal in mid-September, Oli will serve his full five-year term as prime minister while Dahal will be the executive chairman of the party.
Oli committed himself to running the government in consultation with the party and to seek the party secretariat’s approval before taking major decisions or making any important appointments. However, last week, he unilaterally made fresh appointments to the posts of chief secretary and ambassadors to the UK, USA and South Africa.
A cabinet meeting presided over by Oli last week approved the resignation of Lok Darshan Regmi as chief secretary and appointed him ambassador to the UK. Foreign secretary Shanker Das Bairagi was named as Regmi’s replacement to the post of chief secretary.
The cabinet meeting also approved the appointment of former finance minister Yubaraj Khatiwada, who is very close to Oli, as ambassador to the USA while Nirmal Hari Biswakarma was appointed as ambassador to South Africa.
“By making these appointments unilaterally, Oli has violated the spirit of the truce,” said a NCP standing committee member.
NCP leaders belonging to the factions led by Dahal and former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal said they would raise this issue at party committees.
Many leaders in the party knew that Oli, due to intrinsic authoritarian nature, would revert to his old ways of acting unilaterally and in an arbitrary manner.
Many had predicted at the time of the truce, which brought to an end three months of raging factionalism that had threatened to split the party, that Oli would not keep his word.
NCP standing committee member Matrika Yadav, who is close to Dahal, had sceptically said then: “This truce is temporary. Given the nature of the prime minister and the way he tends to work, I don’t think this peace in the party is likely to last long”.
There is more trouble on the horizon. NCP leaders say that the impending cabinet reshuffle is likely to bring the deep fault lines within the party out in the open.
Oli, as head of the government, wants a free hand to reshuffle the cabinet. But Dahal, Nepal and other top leaders want Oli to accommodate their proteges. Oli is reluctant to accommodate all their wishes.
Dahal and Nepal want Oli to dissolve his cabinet and make fresh appointments as per the wishes of the party. But Oli has put his foot down and refused to play ball, saying he will retain some ministers while dismissing the rest.
Failure to arrive at an agreement on this has led to the cabinet reshuffle, which was expected to happen in the last week of September, to get postponed.
Mani Thapa, another standing committee member, was quoted in in The Kathmandu Post as saying that it is “apparent” that Oli is “backtracking on the truce”.
“The way the prime minister is acting, taking decisions on his own and saying that discussions have already been held, it looks like the current ceasefire will end soon. Conflict will raise its head again in the party,” warned Thapa.
Oli’s appointment of the chief secretary and of three ambassadors has also come in for flak with politicians, former bureaucrats and diplomats and members of civil society condemning the appointment as highly irregular (read ).
NCP leaders pointed out that it is just a matter of time before history repeats itself. They were referring to the reached between Dahal and Oli on 19 November last year.
Under that agreement, Oli was to run the government for the full term while Dahal would run the NCP independently as its executive chairman. Oli and Dahal are co-chairmen of the NCP.
But days after that agreement, Oli told a news channel that he was also the party’s executive chairman and was senior to Dahal.
That unilateral assertion by Oli buried that agreement and triggered strife within the party again. An angry Dahal started forging alliances with senior party leader Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal (another former prime minister) and Bamdev Gautam (a former deputy PM).
This alliance grew strong and started exerting pressure on Oli to mend his ways and adhere to inner-party democracy. But Oli did not pay heed to his rivals’ demands and continued to disregard them.
This ultimately led to a majority of the NCP’s Standing Committee members demanding Oli’s resignation in mid-June this year, thus plunging the party into a crisis.
Last month’s truce did avert a split within the NCP, but it seems that with Oli reluctant to mend his ways, a fresh crisis is round the corner.
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