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Nepal: How do we solve a problem like Oli?

Paper No. 6649               Dated 17-July-2020
By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan
 
Looking at the antics of Prime Minister Oli, I am reminded of the song by the Nuns in the movie “ The Sound of Music” and for India, the issue is “How do we solve a problem like Oli?”.
 
The latest antic of PM Oli is an extraordinary claim that Ram was born a Nepali in some obscure village called Thori in Birgunj District.  On top of that, the Archaeological Survey of Nepal, has begun to collect evidence of the birth of Ram in Nepal by examining the river banks of Dhanusha, Bara and Chitwan Districts.
 
Initially the Archaeological Survey of Nepal said that they had no evidence to suggest that the “Real” Ayodhya existed in Nepal.  But now they are going about to collect evidence to support the statement of their Prime Minister! By one stroke Oli has antagonised millions of people from India.
 
Oli was addressing a function to mark the 207th anniversary of Bhanu Bhaktha Acharya and the birth of Ram had nothing do with the life and times of the great Saint.  Yet Oli not only raised this issue to question the faith of millions in India but went on to accuse India of cultural aggression and distorting of historical facts.
 
Some of Oli’s own Colleagues called the claim as ludicrous.  Dr. Karan Singh who has a Nepali connection and well versed not only with Hinduism but also of Nepal’s cultural heritage called it “mind boggling” and gymnastics of a distorted mind.  
 
Yes- “distorted mind” and that is what it is.  It is the same person who in all seriousness declared that the Nepali cuisine will take care of the Wuhan Virus (Covid 19) in the Parliament. He claimed that no less an authority than himself who had made this claim.
 
Now Oli appears to be deliberately trying to spoil the good “people to people” relations between Nepal and India.  He has already done enough damage to the country’s relations with India.
 
The Foreign Ministry was quick to do some damage control.  In a statement it said that the PM’s remarks were not to debase the significance of Ayodhya and its cultural value and the PM’s intentions were only to stress the need for further research related to facts on Ram and Ramayan.  If that was so ,why did Oli accuse India of cultural oppression and encroachment of facts?
 
I am told that Oli is desperate and is trying his best with distractions to save his seat.  This is too simple a reason. But it transpires that in all his meetings with the opposition camp within his party led by Dahal, Madhav Nepal, Jhalanath Khanal and Bam Dev Gautam Oli has been very adamant and is not willing to give up the post of the Chairman of the Party or that of the Prime Ministers despite being in a minority in all levels of governance.
 
Oli and Dahal have so far had eight “one to one” meetings and in the last one held in the evening of 16th a day ahead of the scheduled Central Committee meeting to be held today, Oli stuck to his position.  Madhav Nepal another senior member of the Ruling Party (NCP) was called in to join the talks.  Oli continued to be arrogant and adamant and would not give up any of the two posts- the minimum that has been asked of him from the opposition camp.  
 
At one point Oli tried to have a “one to one” deal with Dahal leaving out other senior leaders of the Party, but Dahal this time was not willing to let down the other leaders.
 
While the talks were going on, Oli is said to have instigated some of his followers to carry out demonstrations in his favour throughout the country.  There were a few demonstrations in favour of Oli.  This has upset other leaders who were already not well disposed towards him.
 
Oli has no majority of his own in the Parliament. He had therefore took the assistance of the President to prorogue the Parliament lest he is overthrown by his own Parliamentary Party members.
 
Oli has no majority at all the three levels of the Party either- the Party Secretariat, Standing Committee and the Central Committee. In all likelihood, all the issues now raised against Oli may be shifted to the larger Central Committee that is likely to meet by August 25.  Oli by this move will get some breathing time.  There were rumours that he may go for a “National Health Emergency” in view of the uncontrollable spread of the pandemic as he has  no other issue to ratchet up the ultra nationalist rhetoric as diversionary tactics. He may still go for the ordinance to divide other parties to obtain a majority.
 
One wonders where Oli gets all the strength to continue to be stubborn when he has lost his majority both in the Parliament and within his party at all levels.
 
Three  issues are working in his favour.  First is the general acceptance both by Dahal and other members of the party supporting him not to split the party at any cost. Second is the full backing of the President of the Country.
 
Third is the role of China.   The message from the CCP and the Chinese Ambassador was that the party should sort out the matters with further talks and at no point of time it should lead to split.  Any decision taken in haste should not have any untoward effect to the party unity.
 
Having burnt their boats with India, Nepal will necessarily have to depend on China and so the issue is being passed on to the Central Committee that  most probably will not meet till the beginning of August. Oli will get some breathing time.
 
One good point is that India despite provocations from Oli has so far desisted in responding to all the antics of Oli, save a few Indian cable channels and this appears to be the best approach.  India can and should wait and not go for any precipitous response.
 
 
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