Oli Leaves With Head Held High

 

Narayan Upadhyay

 

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, as expected, preempted the no-trust motion registered against his government and resigned after realising that the support he enjoyed in the Legistlature Parliament would not be enough for the survival of his government. As the day of the voting over the no-confidence motion drew closer, some parties of his coalition government jumped from his sinking ship, making it quite impossible for Prime Minister Oli to fend off the no-trust motion successfully.

Many believe that Oli’s resignation and his swansong in Parliament gave Oli a final shot in the arm - he left the office with head held high by debunking the myth that he was a power hungry politician. In his lengthy speech, he censured the CPN-Maoist Centre for being a pawn in the hands of external forces, which according to him, was at the centre of destabilising his government.

 

Disease of mistrust

While putting in his papers to preempt the no-trust motion against his government in the House, he left with a parting shot: the disease of mistrust shown by the Maoist Centre, one of the allies of his coalition government, would likely beset the new government, too. He warned the new allies to remain wary of the creeping mistrust and influence of external forces on any coalition. His resignation also rendered the earlier speculation that the coalition government and the Opposition would engage in bitter bickering a hollow one.

Soon after the registration of the no-trust motion, constitutional experts were divided on whether the present constitution had provision for the formation of a new government until the new elections are held. The confusion led many to believe that Oli and his government would take advantage of the constitutional “loopholes” and cling to the post even after his coalition government was turned into a minority government. All these assumptions were turned null and void when he tendered his resignation.

Moreover, he urged the President to address the constitutional obstruction in the formation of the next government with the help of Article 308. Oli has thus been praised for paving the way for the formation of the next coalition government, which will materialise within the next two weeks.

In the wake of his resignation, many analysts have pored over Oli’s nine-month tenure under different lights. During his tenure, PM Oli emerged as having a contradictory working style and beliefs. Many praised him for putting up a brave face against the Indian pressure to rewrite the constitution in line with the demands of the protesting Madhesi parties. He faced the unofficial Indian blockade bravely and gave impetus to Nepal’s relationship with the northern neighbour, much to the chagrin of the Indian establishment.

While Indians upped their pressure, the Oli-led government signed an epochal trade and transit agreement with China and was successful in importing petroleum from the northern border to tackle the shortage of fuel caused by the Indian blockade. Because of the new agreement, the Chinese authorities expedited its trade with Nepal by linking the rail network from its northern sea port to Shigatse and Kerung.

Much to the dismay of India, Oli’s government invited the Chinese authorities to construct a railway line to connect Kathmandu with Pokhara and other parts. The fall of Oli has brought cheers in the Indian establishment, according to the analysis of the mainstream Indian media, which suggested that the departure of Oli has brought back India in Nepal.

Clearly, during his short tenure, Oli emerged as one of the few Nepalese premiers who took the bull by its horns. He did not buckle under Indian pressure and was bold enough to declare, “When it comes to sovereignty of a nation, the nation’s size does not matter. No matter how big or small a country is, they are equal.”

However, there was another face to the coin. Oli was perceived as a leader who had effected strong polarisation among the political classes. He apparently failed to negotiate with the protesting Madhesi parties and was averse to the idea of addressing the issues raised by them.

Despite holding several rounds of talks with the agitating Madhesis, he failed to bring them on board. His conservative attitude alienated the main Opposition - the Nepali Congress - further. As a result, attempts to turn his government into a national consensus government had bitten dust.

The main ally of his coalition - the Maoist Centre - pulled out its support from the government, alleging PM Oli of not respecting the provisions of the unwritten gentlemen’s agreement and 9-point written agreement. Because of this, when the two major parties - the Congress and Maoist Centre - registered a no-trust motion against his government, the agitating Madhesi parties supported the move.

Many of his rivals also believed that he did not enhance the reconstruction process. He was heavily criticised for politicising the reconstruction works by appointing one of his close confidants as the chief and other party functionaries as members of the National Reconstruction Authority. The NRS failed to mobilise resources for the reconstruction works as well as provide succor to the earthquake victims in time. All these forced the main opposition - the Congress - to obstruct the House proceedings, demanding the government and NRA provide lump sum compensation to the quake victims.

Known for speaking out his mind with the use of biting Nepali proverbs and quips, Oli did not help matter for himself when he made tall, impossible claims. At a time when the nation faced an acute shortage of cooking gas, he claimed that his government would bring gas in pipelines to the households, produce electricity from the wind and operate Nepali ships in the seas and oceans for importing and exporting goods. All these remarks made him the butt of all jokes in the media and social media alike.

 

Shortcomings

The outgoing premier, who will be replaced by another communist ideologue, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, will certainly rue over his failure to implement the new constitution by taking into confidence the opposition and agitating parties. His conservative style led him to turn down the demands of the agitating Madhesi and other indigenous communities, which allowed his rival to form a new alliance against him. This shortcoming also made him a leader that led to polarisation in Nepal’s politics at a time when all the political parties needed to join hands for rebuilding the nation.

After having analysed his performance, we are certain that PM Oli will be remembered for his nationalist stance vis-à-vis India, against whom he did not buckle. And to offset the Indian pressure, he extended his hands towards the northern neighbour. But on the domestic front, he failed to build up consensus and address the Madhesi issues. At the base of such polarisation was the rising mistrust of one of his main allies - the Maoist Centre - and the main opposition, both of whom later joined hands to topple his government.

 

 

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