Oli plans rejig in his secretariat as he prepares for a Cabinet reshuffle

KATHMANDU (The Kathmandu Post/ANN) - There had been some indications that the prime minister wanted to change his team of advisors for quite some time, a secretariat member says.

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has asked the advisers and aides in his secretariat to resign to what officials say facilitate a Cabinet reshuffle.

One of the advisers to Oli confirmed to the Post that the prime minister, during a meeting on Friday, asked his secretariat members to step down.

A leader from the Oli camp in the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) said the prime minister, however, could appoint some of them again. “All the advisers and aides of the prime minister will tender their resignation, and the prime minister will have new members in his secretariat, most probably from the start of the next Nepali month [November 17],” the leader told the Post on condition of anonymity.

Oli’s press adviser Kundan Aryal parried questions regarding the resignation, terming it a minor issue.

Bishnu Rimal and Rajan Bhattarai, Oli’s chief adviser and foreign affairs adviser, respectively, refused to comment, saying “we have no idea”.

Asgar Ali, an IT expert in the prime minister’s secretariat, however, said there had been some indications to a rejig for quite some time.

“I was not present in the meeting called by the prime minister on Friday morning. But as far as I know, the prime minister wants to change his secretariat team,” Ali told the Post.

Party leaders close to Oli said the prime minister was preparing grounds for a Cabinet reshuffle and the resignation of his secretariat members could be a part of that.

Apart from Aryal, Rimal and Bhattarai, Oli has Achyut Mainali as his public relations advisor, Indra Bhandari as his personal secretary and Ali as an IT expert in his secretariat.

A leader who served as Oli’s adviser during his first stint in 2015-2016 told the Post that he was particularly not happy with Rimal’s performance for barring important leaders and experts from meeting the prime minister.

The Oli administration, despite having a strong political mandate, has faced censure for poor performance as well as for decisions and attempts to introduce some controversial bills. Oli himself has been criticised within the party for his unilateral ways of running the party and the government.

Party insiders told the Post in September that Oli had insulated himself from reality, largely due to a close circle of advisers, leaders and ministers.

A leader said Oli now must have realised the drawbacks of being surrounded by a small coterie of people and a Cabinet reshuffle provides a good premise for changing the members in the secretariat.

The Cabinet reshuffle plan, which has been on the cards for quite some time, follows the government’s unexpected decision of relieving governors of the seven provinces of their duties a few days ago.

The Cabinet had sacked all the governors days after Oli returned from hospital after two rounds of dialysis. Oli underwent a kidney transplant 12 years ago. On October 30, Oli was admitted to Grande International Hospital after some health complications.

Doctors are yet to decide the future medical course for Oli—regular dialysis or a fresh kidney transplant. If Oli has to be on regular dialysis, he will need it three times a week, with each round taking three to four hours, according to physicians familiar with the PM’s health condition.

Due to Oli’s frail health, there are concerns within the communist party over the time he can invest in governance. Though formal discussions regarding a leadership change have not taken place yet, informal talks are ongoing, according to leaders.

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