Follow @southasiaanalys

Nepal: Almost One Year On: Oli has Nothing to Show:

Paper No. 6478 .   Dated 10-Jan-2019

By S.Chandrasekharan

On 6th January, Prime Minister K.P. Oli addressed the winter session of the Parliament for the first time. His intention was to impress the Parliamentarians and his own Party Seniors of his achievements during his first-year rule.  He said that the country was moving towards a higher trajectory, corruption was under control, law and order had improved etc. etc. When the opposition members wanted to question him on various issues, he refused to take questions and walked away.  The opposition members surrounded him and did not let him go for a while.

Significantly, Oli failed to make any reference on some of the longstanding issues as well as other controversial current ones.  He did not make any reference to the ongoing and biggest corruption scandal in Nepal’s history involving over 4 Billion Rupees, regarding the purchase of two Air Buses.  He made no mention about the Constitutional Amendments he had promised from the beginning to the Madhesi Groups. He has not yet decentralized the powers to the Provinces and the federal system continues only on paper.  Still missing are the laws, infrastructure, fiscal regulations, staff, names of States, Capitals and many more.  There is no progress in transitional justice  and victims continue to go from pillar to post to get justice.  In the tragic case of “Nirmala” the culprits are yet to be identified.

Instead Oli painted a ‘rosy’ picture of the country’s economy when the trade deficit has ballooned in the first four months of the current fiscal year.  There has been decline in foreign investments also.

This is not the first time that Oli has misrepresented the facts.  Towards the end of last year Oli’s Office gave the contract to build an “Action Room” with facilities for video conferencing among others to the Chinese Mega firm Hua Wei technologies for a huge sum without having any competitive bidding.  When asked about it, PM Oli insisted that that it was done through competitive bidding!  Having the Chinese build a sensitive action room attached to the PM’s Office is a matter of serious national security issue.  It may be recalled that Nepal declined the Indian offer of upgrading the immigration services at the Thirubhuvan Airport and even the US offer of providing a software to keep track of the tourists at the immigration has been put on hold!

In the case of both the major Madhesi Groups, Oli persuaded them to support the Government as that would give him a two third majority for making  constitutional amendments.  They were promised that it would be done soon.

One Group- the RJP- N had been threatening to withdraw support to the Government for the last six months and still has not done, though no move has been made to change the Constitution.  It has since become the laughing stock of the people.  The other group led by Upendra Yadav who was clever enough to get the post of Deputy Prime Minister in return of on oral assurance from Oli that the amendments would be gone through,  now finds himself isolated.  In desperation his group has presented a fifteen-point demand that includes revising provincial boundaries, enforcing past agreements, forming of a Constitutional Commission etc. but Oli does not appear to have any intention to meet the demands of his Deputy Upendra Yadav!

While Oli bravely declared in the Parliament that corruption is under control, he is now facing the biggest corruption scandal in the history of Nepal.  It relates to the purchase of two wide-bodied second-hand Air Bus Aircrafts from an allegedly fictitious company by name Hifly and in the process over 435 crores have been siphoned off.  The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee headed by KC Rajan of Nepali Congress has submitted a report to the House.  A sitting Minister, two former Ministers, a sitting Secretary and two former Secretaries and many more have been specifically named in the report.  The Current Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari has been indicted for clearing the last payment to the sellers without checking the details.

 Massive irregularities have been noticed and even the parameters for the aircrafts were unilaterally changed to suit the seller ( one is reminded of Augusta in India).  Oli had no choice but to form a High-Level Commission consisting of a former Chief Justice, one former Deputy Attorney General and an Auditor to probe into the irregularities mentioned and come up with their findings within 45 days!

Many in the Government, the party and the opposition have begun to openly criticize Oli for his style of functioning.

He is not serious when he has to and becomes acerbic and sarcastic when serious questions are asked by the opposition or the Press. 

Oli had to face strong criticism from his own erstwhile colleagues of the UML over his style of working in taking unilateral decisions on matters of Governance.  In the Standing Committee meeting of the party (NCP) held 28th December most of the members particularly the faction led by Madhav Nepal were severely critical of Oli’s style of functioning and decisions taken by him without consulting senior leaders of the Party.  Dahal who is anxiously waiting in the wings to replace Oli, made a sarcastic comment that is the Government that is leading the Party and not the other way.  Dahal acted like a wise moderator, in keeping the tempers down though inwardly he must have been happy.  It is said that Dahal is winning over some of the senior leaders of the UML like Jhalanath Khanal, BamDev Gautham etc. to undermine Oli in due course and replace him.

Oli is still the best bet for Nepal and for the region.  He is still popular with the masses and unlike other leaders has not amassed any wealth. If he had distanced himself from India, it is only the latter that has to take the blame for bringing in unnecessary  misery in encouraging an economic blockade that affected the common Nepali.

If Oli is not doing well, the opposition Nepali Congress led by Deuba is not doing  better either.  The party had a Mahasamithi meeting in mid-December for almost ten days and it was expected that Deuba will apologize to the other cadres and the masses for the poor showing of the party in all three tiers of elections held last year.  This was not to be.  At least the two top leaders who lead the two top factions Deuba and Paudel should have offered step down and give a chance to the younger leaders who are more competent and have the energy to win over the public.  This was not to be.  The younger lot were disappointed and all they could do is to get the two top leaders to patch up their differences and carry on.  It was “business as usual” for the Party. 

The Indian establishment who seem to be close both to Deuba and Dahal should be aware that both cannot deliver the goods for the people of Nepal.