EDITORIAL: Oli and the ruling party must decide on an alternative

KATHMANDU (The Kathmandu Post/ANN) - While no one doubts KP Oli’s ability to govern, it is time he and the ruling party publicise contingency measures.

Reports that Prime Minister KP Oli will take quite a while to recover from his recent ailments are worrisome. While the prime minister has every right to recover in peace and privacy after going through the same major surgery twice, his office--the executive head of the government--is such that it needs someone to fulfil the role at all times. And yet, with Oli’s penchant for control, it is unlikely that he will want to give up want he thinks is his hard-earned right to rule. However, with the prime minister looking at a potential six months where his doctors advise a lower workload and lesser interactions, he and the ruling party must decide on an alternative who can complete the executive’s role--in case he cannot.

That it has come to a point where the government and the ruling party are unsure of what to do without consulting KP Oli shows how much power has been concentrated at Baluwatar. In the past, the Prime Minister’s Office would let individual ministries and departments work independently, acting only as a monitoring body that gave guidance during cabinet meetings. Marking a sharp departure from this trend, Oli began to consolidate more and more authority under his office; the National Investigation Department, the Department of Revenue Investigation and the Department of Money Laundering Investigation, among others, were all brought under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Office. So were all large-scale infrastructure projects deemed to be of importance to ‘national pride’.

Even after there were reports of Nepal Communist Party co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal gaining more ground within the party’s leadership structure after the NCP Secretariat meetings in late February, Oli has managed to exert his will throughout the ruling party’s decision. Even as he was preparing to go in for his second kidney transplant earlier this month, Oli made moves to block Bamdev Gautam’s proposed nomination to the National Assembly (something pushed for by the Dahal camp).

Instead, the prime minister decided to use constitutional provisions to extend Yuba Raj Khatiwada’s tenure as finance minister for six months, essentially putting off the conversation about Gautam taking over Khatiwada’s vacated seat in the Upper House until he recovered enough from the surgery. Even now, with the deputy speaker’s post remaining vacant in the federal Parliament, it seems that the ruling party is awaiting Oli’s recovery to continue his negotiations with Rastriya Janata Party over moving forward with negotiations--or a decision--on their own.

All transplant patients have the risk of the body eventually rejecting a donated organ. To prevent this, patients are pumped with immunosuppressants. There is a greater risk of someone with a donated organ being ill; this is especially true of new transplants who need to be kept under observation. On top of this, KP Oli has been known to push his body to the limit, ignoring his doctors’ orders. While this could be taken as a sign of the prime minister’s resolve towards completing his duties, it puts him at further risk. In fact, this may have put his body in jeopardy, to begin with, having him need this second kidney transfer and a third lease on life.

At a time when the global economy is suffering through a major slowdown, two major oil producers are in a zero-sum price war and the world is gripped with fear due to a pandemic, Nepal’s government needs to be ready to face the challenges as a unit. To do that, key positions need to be filled and all ministries and departments need to be allowed to work effectively, and at least partially independently. Moreover, the executive branch needs a head at all times to coordinate and monitor the government machinery. While no one doubts KP Oli’s ability to govern, it is time he and the ruling party publicise contingency measures--should the prime minister be unable to.

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