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Why Oli has public support

Dinkar Nepal

Dinkar Nepal

Why Oli has public support

With Prachanda’s immoral maneuverings still etched fresh in public mind, it’s difficult for them to believe claims about his new struggle to save democracy

Once again, KP Oli seems to have done the impossible. Once again, he seems to be turning the tide in his favor when it was thought to be insurmountable. Once again, he has lifted mountains through his sheer grit, and his wit.

In a pair of confident and wide-ranging interviews delivered in English and Hindi to Indian Journalists this week, Oli, as the sitting prime minister, has come out as a leader who can speak truth to the powerful. He didn't dodge any question; neither did he make an effort to find a diplomatic escape when asked difficult questions. Both the journalists were bent on cornering Oli by blaming him of cozying up to China and staging forward an antagonizing stand against India, especially blaming the timing of Nepal publishing a new map that included a disputed territory. Oli gave it back straight to them.

There is no doubt that this is a clever political move to gain support back here in Nepal at a time he is being attacked from all sides. But despite the political maneuvering that these interviews are part of, they will remain in the archives as an example of a bold statement of Nepal’s official line vis-à-vis its two giant neighbors.

Oli's decision to dissolve the parliament has left the intelligentsia in Nepal divided, and the politicians befuddled. The moderates among his close supporters are finding it difficult to justify the action, and have invented metaphors for doing the same. Pradeep Gyawali, the foreign minister, and a sober voice among the supporters, said that the decision to dissolve the parliament could be accepted as democratically correct in a 'Nepali flavored democracy'.

How did it come to this? How did a seemingly black and white decision fall into the grey area? And why is Oli able to slowly generate public support despite his obvious disregard for the constitution? The answer to this lies in the long history of moral degradation Nepali politics has entertained.

For a long time, Nepali politics, and the intelligentsia, have allowed themselves to be manipulated. During the early days of the peace process after the signing in India of the 12-point agreement, the media, the international community and the intelligentsia closed their eyes and allowed themselves to be fooled by the trickery of the Maoists. It was an open secret that the Maoists had a force of no more than 5,000 in their roster when they entered the peace process and they had gone on a rampant drive to recruit new soldiers to inflate the numbers.

The UNMIN got manipulated and more than 15,000 were registered as verified PLA members. The media misreported, and the intelligentsia kept mum. This collective moral failure of Nepali society has manifested itself many times thereafter in politics, in multiple forms. And people deeply resent the fact that Nepal's politicians and intellectuals have been fooled time and again by the trickery of one clever Man.

Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda', who became the co-chairman of Nepal's largest party after merging his Maoist party with the Nepal Communist Party (UML), hasn't allowed the transitional justice process to be completed. The whole political juxtaposition, and the complex power sharing mechanism, has ensured that the hazy ground of immorality and injustice gains acceptability and politics remains dirty.

In his new avatar as a player in the parliamentary system, Prachanda has proved that the tactical tendency of a guerilla mastermind hasn’t been shed. In the build up to present crisis, while the constitution didn't allow a no-confidence motion for the first two years of government, Prachanda was Oli's best friend. But the moment the door to destabilize the government technically opened, he launched attacks on all fronts. With two powerful media houses under his direct influence, the tides turned.

KP Oli in an interview has claimed that all engagements Prachanda had with Oli as the head of the government were always focused on bargaining for power for his near and dear ones. Hard evidence substantiates this. He has a network of family members and close relatives who have been placed in powerful positions, including his daughter Renu Dahal as the mayor of Bharatpur. She was elected in a controversial re-election after a party member tore ballot papers during the vote-counting process.

After doing this while in an election coalition with the Congress, he broke the tie immediately and merged his party with UML. With such clever but immoral maneuverings still etched fresh in public mind, it's difficult for them to believe Prachanda's claims about a new struggle to save democracy.

So, what we clearly see is a great political manipulator completely flabbergasted by the unexpected step Oli took. While the intelligentsia feels obliged to speak against Oli’s steps due to technical reasons, the general public will not come to streets in Prachanda’s support. Luckily, they have no such pretentious dilemmas about technicalities.

As I interact with the people on the streets, I find a common sentiment of support for Oli for having the courage to tackle an unjust manipulation; and with some courage I feel forced to say that in a democracy, we should let people decide what's right or wrong.