The leaders opposing KP Sharma Oli conceding to his policies demonstrates Oli’s growing strongman image within the ruling party.
--BY VISHWASH THAPA
Not all negative events give only bad results — some of these end up giving positive outcomes too. The devastating earthquake in 2015 worked as a catalyst to unite the three parties, Nepali Congress, then CPN-UML and UCPN (Maoist), for the promulgation of the constitution the people were waiting for years.
The cross-party leadership has publicly reiterated that the pain the disaster caused prompted them to join hands to build a consensus. Consequently, the country got its first statute drafted directly by the people’s representatives.
Four years later, another negative occurrence has played a role to yield a positive result. The deterioration in the health of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is worrying news for the nation, but that also has worked to expedite the merger within the ruling Nepal Communist Party which has been pending for a long time.
When Oli left for Singapore on August 4, as he developed complications in the kidneys, he had carried a huge burden on his shoulders to conclude the party merger. The dispute over the school department had left 32 departments of the party without leadership while the seniority in the party too wasn’t managed.
Between his first and second Singapore visit, Oli demonstrated unparallel activeness in taking decisions at the party and the government level. When he left for Singapore again for his follow-up on August 22, he had accomplished a majority of the tasks in party unification.
Despite some reservations from the party leaders, Oli ended the hue and cry over the school department by picking Ishwor Pokharel as its chief. Similarly, the chiefs and deputies were nominated, on consensus, in all the departments. Oli, who seemed, in the minority in the core-party committee earlier in August has increased his stronghold by the third week of the month.
When party leaders Jhala Nath Khanal and Bam Dev Gautam expressed their dissent and allied with party co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Oli was in the minority at least in the party secretariat. But he overturned the situation giving Khanal the third position in the party rank and creating a new position of vice-chairman to please Gautam. It is obvious he further increased his bonding with Pokharel, who has been with Oli, after allocating him the school department.
His claim in the House of Representatives that he will lead the government for the remaining three and a half years indicates that he is still decisive within the party.
But the dissatisfaction of Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal suggests there are still strong grievances within the rank and file of the party. Dahal on August 17, said the ongoing complexities in the merger sometimes makes him feel that it would have been better had he not opted to merge the parties. It was a clear manifestation of his dissatisfaction over the merger bid. Similarly, the exchange of words between Nepal and Oli on the day the latter was to leave for his follow-up treatment was a nasty outcome of the former’s reservation over the designation of ranks in the party. However, both leaders had to cover up the incidents showcasing they are not in a position to take up a challenge against Oli. “Our [Oli and Nepal] disputes are nothing but the differences that husbands and wives have,” said Nepal in a programme held in the capital on August 23. It was Nepal who immediately extended a hand to resolve the issue and sent a message to Oli through his aide.
Along with expediting the party merger bid, the Prime Minister also actively worked towards selecting the leadership of two transtional justice bodies which was pending for months following the differences over the ruling and the opposition party on who should get the leadership of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The sources privy to the development say Oli, who wasn’t showing interest in the transitional justice process earlier, keenly worked to forge the consensus among the parties over the new leadership in the two commissions. “Oli generously accepted the deal between Dahal and Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba without putting up his condition,” said a leader of the ruling party requesting anonymity.
Though the move of the parties has received criticism for trying to intervene in the jurisdiction of the recommendation committee led by former Chief Justice Om Prakash Mishra, the agreement between the parties has been decisive in such cases.