Olitics – Politics

Mr Khadga Prasad Oli, known as K.P. Oli, the 38th prime minister of Nepal, is renowned for his sound bites. Nepali public has dubbed him as tukke neta. If you want to have your own version in English, you may call him Mr Twitterist.

When Oli got elected as the Party President, with a tearful eye he admitted not having the luxury of time as his colleagues – this was in reference to his frail health, therefore an implied urgency to speed up things. The psychology got clearly reflected in his “fast track approach” to drafting of the constitution. His approach also included another goal, that is, to occupy the prime ministerial chair. Having achieved both goals in no less than expected time, he seems to be enjoying his free time – attending receptions, hosting lunch and dinner parties and offering tika to the public during dasain festival.

While Madhes is burning, as Dr Babu Ram Bhattarai remarked, “he (Oli) is fiddling with his flute”.

Nearly a month after being elected as PM, he is still appointing ministers from his party. Madhav Nepal is reportedly unhappy that Oli allocated posh ministries to the coalition partners. With the appointment of six Deputy Prime Ministers, Oli has set a record in Nepal’s history on cabinet formation. He seems to be ready to give up anything to secure his tenure for next two years. He now has a Cabinet of 26 members and with few more pending appointments and could easily expand to over 40. The public outcry is not just against his bloated cabinet; it is also directed at the quality of his ministers, particularly, over their experience and academic qualification. We are probably the only country, where we have a 10th grader taking over the ministry of finance. One can imagine the type of output from such minister.

Oli’s ministerial appointments are so hotchpotch that on the very start a minister from RPP-Nepal found his name missed out from the list, just to be listed at the last hour, while his nomination of the law minister came as a surprise to many of his party colleagues. In his recent cabinet expansion, Mrs Asta Laxmi Shakya declined to be the minister, while he was waiting for her at the oath taking ceremony. The bureaucrats, at the Ministry of Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation, waiting to receive their minister, got last minute surprise when they came to know that the minister in fact has been appointed as the defence minister. This is what I like to call Olitics-politics.

It has been almost a month since he occupied the PM’s chair, yet he still has not completed his Cabinet. He is still undecided over the number of ministers to join the government from his own party. It is reported that he has not even bothered to call Cabinet Meeting since last two weeks. This sounds like he is still basking in the sun (coincidentally CPN-UML party symbol) of electoral victories; having all the top positions occupied by communists. If anyone heard his electoral speech in the parliament, they can vouch for Oli’s warning that if anyone did not vote in his favour then they would have lots of ‘badulis’. Nepali people believe that when you have baduli you been terribly remembered by someone else. I am not sure about the MPs, but the Indian PM Modi seems to be having lots of baduli. Going by the media, he has already made two phone calls to Mr Oli.

As per Kishor Nepal, Mr Oli, being a communist leader, refused to take oath in the name of God. Instead, he took the oath in the name of the people. But immediately after oath, he rushed to attain Rato Macchindranath Bhote Jatra festival held at Jawalakhel, Patan. His level of hypocrisy got to a point when he had to take oath under the same President that Oli had refused to recognize earlier. People have not forgotten his insulting remarks to Dr Ram Baran Yadav when he referred to him as someone “adept in injecting needles” giving advices to a legal expert. Dr. Ram Baran Yadav will continue to carry a life time memory of him shifting out from Sital Niwas to a hurriedly prepared, almost make shift like government rented quarter with full public display of his belongings. During Dasain festival his two pictures were released by the media – one receiving tikka from the President in a stand up position (possibly implying his position not less than of the ceremonial President) and other receiving tikka from his father, him staying comfortably on a sofa while his farther in a stand up position – are both socially as incongruent as someone having a meal whilst sitting over a commode.

Many believe his insulting remarks on Madhesis are primarily responsible for infuriating the Tarai-Madhes andolan. He compared the Madhesi protest related deaths to “mangos falling from trees”, caused Tarai-Madhes based MPs to quit the CA by challenging them to claim Bihar plains as a part of Ek Madhes Ek Pradesh movement, and termed the longest human chain of peaceful protest as “a chain of flies”. Mr Oli simply does not have control over his boli (words).

The more he spits satirical venoms on his opponents, the more he presents himself as a symbol of deep seated anger and frustration, opposite of what a nation’s leader should be.

Oli might have been successful in putting his protégée in the chair of the president or strengthening, as a journalist has dubbed, “Oli-garchy” by appointing his yes-men into the ministerial berth and lucrative positions. But knows that his days are numbered.

One journo has even noted that his honeymoon will not last even 100 days. Oli definitely does not have the luxury of time, therefore, he has to enjoy it to the fullest while he can. With the current stand-off with India, his days are ticking away. By invoking ultra-nationalism or playing the ‘China card’ or simply begging mercy from the West over possible humanitarian crisis, he may prolong his tenure for a while but his countdown has started.

To every visiting delegate, he gave the same response, “This blockade will not last long, it will be over soon.” This time instead, to the delegates from private sector business community, he asked them to be prepared for a long haul. If a prime minister makes such remarks, what can we expect to become as a country? The important issue, therefore, is not the survival of Oli’s tenure, but the survival of Nepal.

Narayan Manandhar

Narayan Manandhar is a freelance consultant with an interest in corruption and governance issues.