Eighteen long months after the formal unification of the CPN-UML and the CPN (Maoist Center), the gentleman’s agreement between KP Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal is finally being implemented. The new understanding is that Oli will serve out the remaining of his five-year term as prime minister, and Dahal will oversee the party. Meanwhile, Oli has taken this opportunity to reshuffle his cabinet: ‘under-performing’ six ministers and three state ministers have been removed and replaced. The portfolios of some other ministers have been changed. The prime minister says these changes will soon be reflected in governance and service delivery.
It’s possible. The long-running power-sharing dispute between Oli and Dahal was a big hindrance to the NCP’s functioning and, by extension, the working of the two-third federal government. As big an obstacle were ministers who either served vested interests or didn’t do much. So, at least on paper, the power-sharing breakthrough and cabinet reshuffle could work to the advantage of both the party and the country. But they also might not. The new Oli-Dahal understanding, brokered by President Bidya Bhandari, could again unravel given Dahal’s fickle nature. And some of the new inductees into the cabinet are hardly beacons of rectitude.
Yet the prime minister has been canny this time. Those from the Madhav Nepal camp in the party, who had long been miffed at Oli’s ‘unilateral ways’, have also been included in the new cabinet, and a new truce seems to be developing between Oli and Nepal. With the party and the government more united, the prime minister should now be in a better position to push his agenda.
PM Oli will hopefully set clear targets for his cabinet colleagues and promote meritocracy. Also, with the burden of running the party lifted from his shoulders, he should train his focus on good governance and service delivery. In that case, with the main opposition still mired in internal disputes, the NCP will also be in good stead going into the next round of elections in 2022. No less than Oli’s legacy is on the line in what could be the last leg of his political career. There is thus every incentive for the prime minister to roll up his sleeves and take charge.