Amid the shameless scramble for power in the ruling Nepal Communist Party, the communists’ electoral promise of stability and prosperity sounds like a cruel joke. Top party leaders continue to pull every trick in the book to get an upper hand in the bitter struggle for the control of both the party and the government it leads. Meanwhile, Nepalis, their health and wealth under imminent risk from a dangerous virus, are reckoning with the choices they made in the 2017 federal elections: Did they really elect this bunch of jokers to serve them?
KP Oli’s opponents in the NCP must share some blame for this seemingly never-ending party drama. But as the party’s co-chair and, more importantly, the country’s prime minister, the reckless and irresponsible Oli deserves most of the blame he is getting. To save his government, he has tramped on the principle of separation of powers, made a mockery of the ‘ceremonial’ presidency, and tried to rule by diktat. He seems determined to stop his opponents in the party from prevailing, even if it entails doing harm to the democratic process.
If Oli had handed over government leadership to party co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, as promised, the NCP would be a more united force today. Short of that, he could have given Dahal control over party functioning, which too would have done the trick. But when the time came to relinquish one of the two chairs, Oli got greedy. He threw the gentleman’s agreement with Dahal out of the window, and is now desperate to hang on. This despite the fact that he is in a clear minority in the nine-member NCP Secretariat as well as the 45-member Standing Committee.
Oli’s refusal to face up to the truth and his tramping of democratic norms are troubling. He keeps talking about the sacrifices he has made over the years for the cause of democracy in Nepal, especially all those torturous years he spent in jail fighting the autocratic monarchy. But he now acts no different to the freewheeling monarchs he fought against. Oli had won the backing of millions of Nepali when he stood up to Indian highhandedness over the new Nepali constitution, which in turn propelled him to power in 2017. In his under three years in office, he has let most of them down.