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Oli’s staying power?

Thursday, March 31st, 2016
Pic: RSS

Pic: RSS

After returning from China early this week, Prime Minister KP Oli told journalists that Chinese President Xi Jinping had accepted his invitation to visit Nepal by the end of 2016. The question is: will Oli still be around to welcome Xi?

Even while he was in China, speculation was rife that the days of the UML-Maoist-RPPN coalition was numbered. The gossip mills had started spinning as soon as three-time Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba was elected the Nepali Congress president. Deuba is a veteran political coup-maker with a reputation for toppling incumbents.

But the Oli camp tried to quash the rumours. ‘Government now stronger’ read the banner headline in the UML’s party organ, Budhabar. But the more Oli and his allies try to reassure the public and party cadre, the more they believe that the countdown for his ouster has begun.

UCPN(M) spokesman Dinanath Sharma publicly said this week that the Oli government had failed and there should be an alternative — this from the UML’s main coalition partner in government.

The RPPN, the other important UML ally in the government, is also on the verge of a split with senior leader Keshar Bahadur Bista putting pressure on the party president and Foreign Affairs Minister Kamal Thapa to quit the government.

We asked NC leader Balkrishna Khand, a close aide to Deuba, if the main opposition is trying to topple the government. His reply: “We do not need to topple this government, it will collapse on its own.”

Deuba has told close aides to focus on electing him as the party’s parliamentary leader next week. If he is party president and parliamentary leader, Deuba will try to consolidate his hold in the NC by nominating his aides into key posts. It will take him at least three months. He is not expected to create any trouble for Oli till that happens.

But Khand was sure that the present government would not be in power to present the national budget for the next fiscal year.

Analysts say that as long as the UCPN (M) Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal stands by Oli, the present ruling coalition will not unravel. Dahal has said that in the worst case the present coalition can be transformed into an all-party government by bringing in the NC and Madhesi parties also on board.

Deuba would benefit if the Madhesi parties take to the streets again. If that happens, Oli may have to give way for an all-party government led by the NC.

On Thursday, the Madhesi Front threatened more protests not only in the Tarai but also in Kathmandu. That came a day after Nepal figured prominently in talks between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with EU officials in Brussels. A joint press statement underlined ‘the need for a lasting and inclusive constitutional settlement in Nepal in a timebound manner’.

Nepal’s Foreign Ministry reacted swiftly on Thursday, accusing India and the EU of  ‘interfering in Nepal’s internal affairs and hurting the sentiment’ of the people’.

Om Astha Rai


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