All The PM’s Men

With over two thirds of majority in the parliament, prime minister KP Sharma Oli is running the government. Who influences him in his decisions?

June 15, 2018, 2:37 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL.11, No.-22, June 15, 2018 (Ashad 01, 2075) Online Register Number: DOI 584/074-75

As Chanakya said the prince’s ability to take decisions was determined by the persons with whom he would out. He further said that the quality of a successful prince was his ability to choose the best persons in his inner circle.

Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, who is leading a 25-minister cabinet, with two deputy prime ministers, also takes formal decisions through the cabinet. However, Oli has very close coteries to influence his major decisions.

Every prime minister wishes to be successful, exploiting the political power and state authority, and Prime Minister Oli is not an exception. In his last four months of tenure, Prime Minister Oli has already taken a number of decisions to make his office powerful.

Prime Minister Oli needs his own small group of people to advise him and help him execute his vision. After the merger of two leading communist parties, Prime Minister Oli has, no doubt, become most powerful man in the country.

With his formidable power, Prime Minister Oli has already pulled National Investigation Department (Intelligence), anti-money laundering department and Social Welfare Council under the prime minister’s office. He completed his official visit to India and hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Nepal in his pilgrimage tour.

Prime Minister Oli is now preparing for his China visit. Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali, who was on the way to Mongolia, visited the Chinese capital to discuss about the preparations for Oli’s forthcoming visit.

From party unity to bringing his relations with India back on track, Prime Minister Oli has taken major decisions over the months. Although PM Oli is the front face, there are a few of his own trustees, who have been working behind the screen.

Oli’s Kitchen Cabinet

As Prime Minister Oli is walking a very tightrope, he is relying on his kitchen cabinet to make decisions. For the last one decade, Principal Secretary Bishnu Rimal, a very well known leader of Trade Union Federation, has been a close ear of KP Sharma Oli.

Prime Minister Oli appointed Rimal as his official political advisor. Rimal has a direct access to prime minister all the time. Having experiences of working in different tires of national and international organizations, Rimal can also guide Prime Minister Oli on his visits to foreign countries.

Pushing all his colleagues behind, Bishnu Paudel, general secretary of unified party, has become another most influential member of Oli’s kitchen cabinet. Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali, former speaker Subhash Nembang and chief minister of Province 4 Shanker Pokharel and President Bidhya Devi Bhandari are in the first line of the kitchen cabinet.

Although there are several others in his team, this first line of his kitchen cabinet influences all major decisions of Prime Minister Oli. The first line has the final say on all matters.

Although Finance Minister Dr. Yubaraj Khatiwada, information and communication minister Gokul Banskota and Attorney General Agni Kharel remain trusted persons for Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, they are in the second line of the kitchen cabinet. This group includes foreign policy expert Rajan Bhattarai, personal secretary Rajesh Bajracharya, media advisor Kundan Aryal and Deb Raj Ghimire.

In economic policy matters, Oli’s team depends upon finance minister Dr. Khatiwada, who was a part of the finalization of economic agenda of communist alliance during the elections.

Although foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali is one of the closet political colleagues of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, Rajan Bhattarai, a soft spoken and JNU scholar, is a person with a direct access to Baluwatar.

With the recent decision that inducted Bishnu Poudel as the party’s general secretary, deputy prime minister and defense minister Ishwor Pokharel, who used to be a master player in Oli’s camp, has lost his entrusted position. 

However, Sher Dhan Rai, Chief Minister of Province 1, MP Bhanubhakta Dhakal, Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikary, Chief Minister of Province 3 Prithvi Subba Gurung and MP and former minister Khagraj Adhikary are also included in the Oli’s kitchen cabinet forming the outer circle.

Youth leader Mahesh Basnet, student leader Niru Pal and Karna Bahadur Thapa are also in Oli’s team with limited access and limited influence in the decision making.

From breaking electoral alliance to unifying two communist parties, Bishnu Poudel, Bishnu Rimal, Pradeep Gyawali, Shanker Pokharel and Subhash Nembang backed Oli strongly.

Although she is in the ceremonial role, President Bidhya Bhandari prevails over major decisions taken by Prime Minister Oli and, thus, plays a key role in PM Oli’s decisions. One insider even said that Bhandari can overturn the decisions.

Bishnu Poudel, who sided with Bam Dev Gautam when CPN-UML split, has made such a rise that he pushed many of his colleagues, including Ishwor Pokharel, far behind. Along with helping Oli take major decisions, the Prime Minister’s kitchen cabinet is also able to tranquilize former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and tame the unpredictable and cunning leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda.

To please the leaders and balance the party, Prime Minister Oli also regularly consults with Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, Narayan Kazi Shrestha and Madhav Kumar Nepal. With improvement of his relations with former Prime Minister Nepal, Oli is reshaping his strategy. For the sake of formality, Prime Minister Oli also consults regularly with Bam Dev Gautam.

However, Prime Minister Oli heavily relies on his six-person kitchen cabinet, reportedly of president Bhandari, Bishnu Poudel,  Pradeep Gyawali, Bishnu Rimal, Chief Minister Shanker Pokharel and deputy parliamentary leader Subhas Nembang.

With tactful people in his kitchen cabinet for political maneuvering, Prime Minister Oli is leading the government by balancing all the sides. It is a matter of test for the kitchen cabinet to handle the obtaining political crisis.

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