Stand up, or stand aside

Bikash Sangraula

  • Read Time 5 min.

On May 2, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, who has faced incessant persecution from the biased Kathmandu intelligentsia, offered a chance to his political opponents—who claim he is the single biggest threat to Nepal’s democracy, constitutionality, and progress—to unseat him.

Till then, Oli was in parliamentary majority because his ally-turned-foe Pushpa Kamal Dahal had not mustered the guts to withdraw the Maoist-Center’s support to the government in the full two months since the Supreme Court reinstated the Lower House on February 23.

In over two years of political turmoil crafted by Dahal, he had sought to oust Oli through extra-parliamentary process, using his clout over the mainstream media to present him in great light while lampooning the prime minister at every turn. Indeed, one reason Dahal was so vehemently against the elections called by Oli was that, as widely believed, his Maoist party would be reduced to a peripheral political force.

When the time finally came to stand up and be counted after the Supreme Court reinstated Parliament, it is noteworthy that Dahal was unwilling to bring a no-confidence motion. Firstly, he was not sure he had the numbers including from the Nepali Congress and JSP, and secondly, Oli could not be challenged for a full year if the attempt failed. And so Dahal spent weeks trying to convince Sher Bahadur Deuba and the Madhesi leaders, to no avail.

It has also become clearer why Dahal was so vehemently opposed to elections: it is that his Maoist would in all likelihood be reduced to a token at the polls. Indeed, one can be magnanimous and empathize with Dahal for the reality that seems to stare him in the face.

As for Prime Minister Oli, after having waited two months for the opposition to bring a no confidence motion, he has decided to stand the test of Parliament of his own volition. Finally, on May 4, the Maoist Center decided to withdraw its support to Oli. It would have been embarrassing not to do so as Parliament sits to meet.

Also on May 4 came a decision by the Nepali Congress party that it would not vote in favor of Oli on May 10. A commitment to unseat him, however, was tellingly absent in the decision.

If past jubilations serve any precedent, Oli’s opponents in the media and in the political spectrum should have welcomed his decision to convene a special session of Parliament on May 10 to seek a fresh vote of confidence. After all, in our democracy, Parliament is the right place for a prime minister to test his legitimacy. That a handful of fortune-seeking commentators cannot stand a prime minister is hardly an issue in any democracy.

If a government change is to happen, it better be swift. If not, this political distraction must stop. The nation cannot afford it amid a rampaging pandemic. 

After deciding on December 20 last year to stand the test of the ballot, which was blocked by the Supreme Court, this is the second time Oli has sought to silence his critics by putting himself on the crucible. Instead of appreciation, however, the said commentators have gone into overdrive peddling conspiracy theories on what is going on.

Rather than be open to the idea of a confidence vote, the commentators’ fear of Oli remaining on the prime minister’s chair has them imagining many scenarios. One of them is to darkly suggest that India has been instrumental in keeping NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba from going in for a no-confidence vote against Oli. This theory disregards the many reasons internal and external to his own party, as to why Deuba would rather have quick elections, to overturn the debacle of his party (under his leadership) in the 2017 general elections.

The deification of Oli

Another conspiracy theory making rounds is that Oli decided to take the test because he is somehow capable of controlling the outcome of the parliamentary test. In this, the prime minister’s opponents can be said to be deifying Oli, believing him to be omnipotent, a kind of seer who has future events completely within his grip.

In parallel, the theory that there is a ‘setting’ between the top executive and high judiciary, which was shot down by the Supreme Court’s February 23 verdict, is once again rearing its head. This theory suggests that the temporary suspension of judicial service delivery, except for habeas corpus and Covid-19 related petitions, is part of a plan to have the judiciary look the other way while Oli carries out unconstitutional moves.

The incongruence does not seem to bother the loud commentators, who insist on suspecting the very person of autocratic ambitions who has approached Parliament for a confidence vote. A kind of panic and paranoia does seem to afflict Oli’s opponents, who fear him, hate him, while at the same time ascribe to him supernatural abilities.

Time to be decisive

The ground reality is that the outcome of May 10 remains quite uncertain. The Prime Minister seems to have taken a gamble, going by whatever permutations are thrown up in the game of numbers, and he is surely not in a position to calibrate and command the outcome.

There is enough time still for Dahal, his UML ally Madhav Kumar Nepal, Deuba, and Janata Samajwadi Party’s Upendra Yadav-BaburamBahttarai faction to come together to try and unseat Oli. In a country where things go topsy turvy overnight, these political players will obviously leave no stone unturned in the days ahead to try and deliver a drubbing to Oli. This would not only bring Oli down. It would erase the embarrassment of not being able to bring a no-confidence motion after the reinstatement of Parliament.

The ground reality is that the outcome of May 10 remains quite uncertain. The Prime Minister seems to have taken a gamble, going by whatever permutations are thrown up in the game of numbers, and he is surely not in a position to calibrate and command the outcome.

If these political parties fail to grab this opportunity, the ruckus they created on the streets in the past four months, contributing their bit to help the ongoing Covid-19 explosion in Kathmandu, will prove to be nothing more than irresponsible political brinkmanship in pandemic times.

That Oli, in response, himself held counter-rallies in front of the Narayanhiti and elsewhere cannot be forgotten, neither can we forgive and forget civil society events, religious jatras, and five-star weddings—not to mention the attendance of the former King and others in the Kumbha Mela in Haridwar. 

As containing the spread of Covid-19 is and should remain the nation’s top priority now and in the coming months and perhaps years, it really does not matter to a commoner who lords it over Singha Durbar as long as that person takes clear policy positions to counter the pandemic. The need of the hour is to get vaccine supplies and support the population through oxygen supplies and isolation centers.


The aforementioned political parties, if they have any self-respect left and if they meant what they said when they took to the streets after December 20, have a golden opportunity to take the nation from Oli’s alleged ‘pratigaman’ to ‘agragaman’ or progress. One would wish them success, in using the legitimate path of parliamentary arithmetic to unseat the sitting prime minister.

If the ambitions of Dahal and his cohorts fail in bringing Oli down, May 10 will offer him an opportunity to concede that he is a national liability. He should then allow Oli to steer the country out of this pandemic in the next one-and-a-half years of his current term.

These are the two possible outcomes. If a government change is to happen, let it happen swiftly. If not, this political distraction must stop. The nation cannot afford it amid the rampaging pandemic.