Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli lost the vote of confidence in Parliament on May 10. His opponents were only talking about dethroning him ever since he dissolved parliament on December 20, 2020, but were not able to show spine. In this sense, he made it easier for Maoist Center, Nepali Congress and Madhav-Nepal faction of UML to test his mettle: ‘You only talked about removing me from power for months on end but in vain, now face me in parliament and see what you can do.’
On the face of it, Oli was playing the losing game, for it was becoming clear who would not vote for him: Maoist Center, Nepali Congress and a group of colleagues from his party whom he had alienated and persecuted to the hilt.
Thus it was a losing battle. Perhaps he knew it was.
But hours after parliament declared him ‘unfit’ to govern, Oli has started to appear invincible again.
Come to think of it. Though President has called the political parties to form the majority government and though Nepali Congress, Maoist Center and Upendra Yadav-Baburam Bhattarai are into it, all this looks untenable, for these three forces are not able to cobble up a coalition. Together they command only 124 seats, whereas they need 136 to prove majority. Alternative government cannot be formed unless Janata Samajbadi Party Nepal (JSPN) as a single entity stands tough against Oli, the prospect which is becoming remoter.
Mahantha Thakur, who is a towering leader in Tarai Madhesh for whatsoever reason, has reiterated his support for Oli, he has also made it clear that he will not allow his colleagues to cross the floor. On his May 10 speech at parliament, Thakur was more thankful to Oli than any other leaders. His colleague Rajendra Mahato has warned of action against Upendra Yadav and Baburam Bhattarai if the latter decide to stand against Oli.
Hating colleagues, making new friends
I have failed to understand why, and how, Thakur and Mahato, who were the ones to demonize K P Oli in Madhesh, who were the ones to misinterpret Oli’s allusion to ‘fall of mangoes’ and ‘makhe sanglo’ as killing of Madhesis and human chains as chains of ‘flies,’ who were the ones to spread hate against Oli, one of whom was even advocating for Madhesh as a separate nation, who issued veiled threats of secession during Madhesh Movement, became bedfellows of Oli overnight. What’s the secret behind the change of heart in these fierce critics of Oli? Have they sacrificed their rhetoric of radicalism in exchange for release of a few of their cadres from prison?
From how Thakur-Mahato duo are singing praise of Oli and how Oli is appeasing the former, I suspect some secret understanding but let me limit this speculation as a matter of suspicion for the moment.
The hate-hate relations between Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal became an open book after the former dissolved the House of Representatives. Oli made it appear like Maoist Center was the source of all evils and he had to dissolve the House because of the Maoists. Then he began to tell us: Melamchi water project could not be completed because there was a Maoist minister, MCC process got stalled because there was a Maoist Speaker in the House.
What’s the secret behind the change of heart in Mahantha Thakur and Rajendra Mahato who were the ones to demonize K P Oli in Madhesh?
There is no way of knowing which ministers helped in development and delivery and which hindered it. The rhetoric of foul play sounds credible only when substantiated with facts. But that’s beside the point here. The curious case is how the two leaders who acted like one-body two-souls at one time began to have differences and on which issues. How did Dahal come to be the most hated person among the Oli clique? Was it because Oli came to regret the merger with Maoist Center?
As for Nepali Congress, not because of the party but because of the leadership, Oli never took it as a force to reckon and never treated it as such. When you get an opposition leader who has no moral grounds to question the wrongdoings of the government, the government head surely takes advantage of the situation.
These fault lines were favoring Oli.
Dishonesty, double standards
Despite all hue and cry, despite losing vote of confidence, by design or by default, politics today stands hostage to the whims and wishes of one man.
If Oli wants it, there will be early election, if he does not, there won’t be, if he wants it this parliament will survive full five years terms, if he does not he will cut short its life once again.
If he really wants it, he can bring Madhav Nepal and his leaders to his fold—a couple of breakfast meetings, some words of apology or atmaalochana (self-criticism) and some ‘I was wrong but you were wrong too’ gesture will suffice. That achieved, Oli will preside over 120 member parliamentary party. With Thakur-Mahato’s unflinching support, 15 others will be in his favor, in which case the minority government that he will lead (assuming that he will) can serve for the next two years.
Oli has been able to discredit Mahantha Thakaur and Rajendra Mahato. It must also mean the death of radical demands which Thakur and Mahato championed at one time.
But this is not what Oli seems to be interested in. He has made his distaste for this parliament apparent several times perhaps because of the man he hates or the man who hates him—Pushpa Kamal Dahal. He has been seeing this parliament as a source of instability, an institution against democracy. On May 10, he made it even clearer: this parliament will remain only as long as it gives him a vote of confidence, suggesting that the moment it does not he will break it apart.
This goal can be achieved by further alienating Madhav Nepal faction and by keeping Mahato-Thakur in good humor so that at least a faction of JSPN will always stand against the possibility of Congress-Maoist Center-JSPN (Yadav-Bhattarai) coalition, in which case he will fail to gain vote of confidence for his minority government and then he will find a legitimate excuse to dismantle this parliament and go for early polls.
What good will it do to the country? This will not help consolidate our public health system which is failing to provide treatment to the people at the time of Covid rampage. This will not help to rebuild the public faith in our political institutions and political system. This will only set a wrong precedent in Nepali politics.
Call it a fallout of politics of deception but Oli has discredited Mahantha Thakaur and Rajendra Mahato. It must also mean the death of radical demands related to provincial demarcation and citizenship. It should have sent the message elsewhere too that all Thakur-Mahato duo cared about was those facing charges of atrocities committed during the 2015 protests instigated by none others but themselves. All they care about is amnesty for them, a blanket impunity.
Duplicity, dishonesty and double standards of many other leaders and political parties will be exposed in the days to come.