PM OLI’s Two Years Getting Established

With growing concerns about weak health, Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli completed his second year in the government with firm control in party and cabinet. How will he carry this political gain forward remains to be seen

Feb. 23, 2020, 8:23 a.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL. 13 No. 13 ,Feb.21-Mar.12,2020(Falgun.09, 2076) Publisher: Keshab Prasad Poudel Online Register Number: DOI 584/074-75

As Niccolò Machiavelli writes in his Prince that power justifies all the means and Prince has to show his confidence before his rivals to shield himself from a possible conspiracy of overthrowing.

Since the nature of power and characters of the individual has not changed much all over, Nepal is no exception. Every individual aspires to exercise power and remain in power. Machiavelli advises individuals to use tricks, appeasements and tactics to consolidate power and position.

Although Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli was groomed in communist ideology, his political actions and behavior look to be close to Machiavellian philosophy. Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, who has been leading the Nepal Communist Party and government with a two-thirds majority, is not immune from crisis. He has been facing challenges within his party and outside. Even in his statements and actions, one can find his own difficulties.

Known for his political maneuvering skills, Prime Minister Oli has been playing the checker to prove himself a strongman within his party and outside. Despite several attempts by his colleagues in the party to weaken him, Oli has been able to maintain a firm grip.

As the government has completed two years in power, Prime Minister Oli has been making efforts to justify his position in power showing various indicators to different actors.

In mainstream media and social media, PM Oli is projected as a physically and politically weak leader. However, this is not true in real politics where he has proved himself to be a sole competent player pushing Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Madhav Nepal and Jhalnath Khanal far behind.

In the last month, Prime Minister Oli has faced several fronts including central committee of the party, head of media and opposition in the parliament. However, he has stood firm.

Through his 32 pages of progress report and sweets of power, Oli wooed his party leaders at the central committee meeting. His critics, including three former prime ministers, who declared their challenge to him in the central committee, were virtually bowled out. On MCC, PM Oli set up a committee under the convenorship of Jhalnath Khanal with foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali and Bhim Rawal as members.

As a co-chair, Prachanda was forced to read a political draft finalized by PM Oli and endorsement of the draft unanimously by the central committee has further strengthened his positions.

He boasted his government’s two years of achievement and progress in the statement in the house of over 400 member central committee. The documents highlighted high economic growth, law and order, prosperity, devolution of power to province and local level, the reunification of party organizations, sharing of power and so on.

Despite so many grievances, overwhelming central committee members backed him suggesting him to continue in power. Looking at his popularity, all his critics remained calm. Amending the constitution creating the post of a vice-chairperson for Bam Dev Gautam, PM Oli cut the size of his two old colleagues, Khanal and Nepal.

Second Transplant

As he has completed two years in power, Prime Minister Oli is more calculative and strategic. Just a day after the completion of his politically powerful central committee member, Prime Minister Oli invited journalists from leading media outlets at his residence where he declared many important decisions.

With growing popularity within the party and organizations under his control, Prime Minister Oli declared that he will go for second Kidney Transplant within a few months.

In his interaction with editors of leading news media at Baluwatar, Prime Minister Oli said the second transplant is necessary for him to govern the country for another term as well.

“As everything is going well within the party and the government is making big progress in the economic front, I have decided to go for a second kidney transplant. To make the country prosperous, I need to work for 18 hours a day. For this I have to go for a second kidney transplant,” Prime minister Oli said.

In most of the other meetings, he used to talk and share his own views in aggressive tones. However, this time he appeared in a different avatar as a quiet listener.

“Today, I wanted to be a listener,” said prime minister Oli opening his interactions with media. “I wanted to know your opinions and suggestions, I will sum up at last,” said Oli with his principal secretary, Bishnu Rimal, foreign policy advisor Dr. Rajan Bhattarai and Press Advisor Surya Thapa on sides.

The move backed by Rimal, Dr. Bhattarai and Thapa, who has been guiding prime minister Oli to interact with the media directly produced positive results with wide coverage the next day.

Unlike the rumors about his weak health conditions, losing command in the party and government, Prime Minister Oli has been able to disseminate his opinion that everything is firmly under his own grip.

In almost three hours of interaction, he listened quietly to the complaints and suggestions given by journalists and address their concerns at last. The meeting completed with a musical concert by Prime Minister on the flute with two NCP leaders Jhalnath Khanal and Madhav Kumar Nepal and other party members. Prime Minister Oli’s message is that there is nothing to worry and everything is under his control.

Criticizing the government for heading to become autocratic by bringing harsh press laws, information act and human rights bill, some of the editors of leading media endorsed prime minister Oli’s commitments to freedom of press, democracy and human rights.

“I spent 15 years in prison and a long time in political struggle and I know the importance of freedom of the press and human rights," said PM Oli, whose government has tabled numbers of the bill to contain the media including social media. He claimed that there is no other than himself to feel how it will hurt people without a free press.

"I agree that some of the bills were presented in haste and there are shortcomings. I assure you that those shortcomings will be addressed during the process of passing the bill," said Oli, who is reportedly heading for the United States in the first week of March for a second kidney transplant.

Despite severe criticism against Prime Minister Oli in public, half a dozen of journalists who offered suggestions looked with a soft corner towards PM Oli. “We don't have any doubt on your intention and commitment but there might be someone trying to play against a free press," said one of the editors of a leading press, whose media is vocally criticizing the prime minister.

Oli In Parliament

After successfully handling party and media, prime minister Oli, who has been facing criticism from the main opposition party Nepali Congress on the mode of operation of CIAA on the Lalita Niwas Land Scam, also turned the opposition voiceless pressing his agenda and achievements aggressively.

“I am proud to say that this is the first government in the last decade to complete two years with huge achievements in law and order, economic growth, political rights and so on," said Oli in his address to House of Representatives. "You don’t think the high-level visit of Chinese President Xi Jiping, holding SAG, 6 percent growth are not achievements?" Oli asked the opposition in the House of Representatives.

Prime Minister Oli has claimed that his government has completely transformed the country though firm economic policies and programs. Apprising the House of Representatives (HoR) of the achievements of his government, Prime Minister Oli said that he has made many achievements in the last two years to make Nepal a prosperous nation.

He claimed that many sectors show signs of improvement when the government does well and highlighted the achievements made in South Asian Games by Nepal two months back.

At the function presided over by the newly appointed Speaker of the House, Agni Prasad Sapkota, members of opposition Nepali Congress Party raised various questions including the law and order, escalating price rise and others.

Prime Minister Oli has made it clear that the new federal democratic republic is taking shape. He said that the government has made its presence felt not only in national politics but also in major international forums, representing Nepal in arenas it had never found space before.

“Nepal Communist Party has completed 731 days of governance which in itself is a rare feat given that Nepal has not seen such a stable government in years. For a government to reach the two-year milestone is an achievement,” he said at the beginning of his speech.

Oli then spent a major portion of his speech defending the controversial decisions of the government including the Guthi Bill, IT Bill, misuse of property by Nepal Trust, and the Lalita Niwas land grab scam. “The government has not shown favor or bias against anybody in this case. The responses to the government’s action, in this case, have been very interesting. People are making it look like I have personally benefited from that land.”

In addition to talking about government undertakings, PM Oli also spoke on several relevant issues engaging the government in recent times. He claimed that the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact program would be endorsed soon and ultimately passed by the Parliament. Oli also talked about the longstanding Kalapani border issue.

Authoritarian Line

Despite his clearance, the opposition party has drawn the conclusion that the government is heading to become authoritarian. Presenting a 61-point failure of the government, Bishwo Prakash Sharma, spokesperson of the Nepali Congress, said that this government had completely failed to make progress.

“Through the IT Bill and Press bill, Oli government is trying to impose an authoritarian rule in the country. Nepali Congress will fight tooth and nail not to allow the government to impose an authoritarian regime,” said Sharma.

“This government’s modus operandi has been to take many policy decisions, especially those related to legislations, without allowing stakeholders to weigh in. This has landed a number of legislations, including Guthi Bill, Media Council Bill, National Human Rights Commission Bill, and Information Technology Bill, into controversy,” said MP Gagan Thapa.

Critics argue that PM Oli, who has been projecting himself as a leader with vision, needs to understand that not everything is well in the country. The economy, for example, is facing severe headwinds because of a slowdown in the construction sector, low business confidence and fall in paddy output for the first time in three years.

These problems in governance have prompted PM Oli’s co-chair in NCP, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, and many other ruling party members to, directly and indirectly, criticize the government for not working in the interest of ordinary people.

“Together with political stability, Nepal’s economy has been heading towards progress. The country was able to post economic growth of 7.1 percent in the fiscal year 2018/19 while it was 6.7 percent in 2017/18,” said the government report.

I am happy to declare that Nepal's economic growth has been higher than the world's average over the last three years,” said Oli. “This is a major success of this government.”

Two years into office, PM Oli has continued to execute an independent foreign policy that is geared towards mustering the support of neighbors, friendly nations and the international community to promote economic diplomacy and opening-up policy.

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Indication of Instability

Just a week after celebrating 2 years in power, Prime Minister himself said in his statement that national and foreign forces are working to destabilize the country.

In his address in Jhapa, prime minister Oli said that foreign and national forces are working to destabilize his government indicating something cooking against his government.

His statement came just a day before the release of the former speaker of House of Representatives Krishna Bahadur Mahara from prison following his clearance on the rape case against him.

Despite his control, PM Oli is not immune to conspiracy against him. Desperate to go to power, co-chair Prachanda is said to be not happy with the government. Given Nepal’s political nature, one cannot rule out the possibility to see an unstable phase in the country.

As PM Oli enjoys relative stability in power for two years with complete control in the government and party, how he will manage it in the future remains to be seen.

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