Foes to friends, Oli’s dramatic riseThe elevation of CPN-UML Chairman KP Oli as the prime minister did not happen overnight.
The elevation of CPN-UML Chairman KP Oli as the prime minister did not happen overnight. His increasing political bonhomie with UCPN (Maoist) Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal after the April earthquake contributed greatly to the making of Oli as the country’s 38th prime minister.
Earlier known as nemesis, Oli-Dahal relationship saw a new beginning following a 16-point political agreement, necessitated by the urgency to wrap up the lengthy constitution writing process in the face of the devastation. The four-party deal in June provided an impetus to the statute-drafting process stalled since January.
The promulgation of the new constitution was a result of the growing camaraderie between the two communist contemporaries who held several secret talks in different locations in Kathmandu prior to the deal.
While the Nepali Congress and the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Loktantrik also played crucial roles in it, the 16-point deal established Oli as perhaps the most influential player in current-day politics.
Oli, an all season Maoist-baiter and a strong opponent of identity-based federalism, was on the same page with Dahal in the last phase of constitution writing. Both stood strongly against “external pressure” while wrapping up a long delayed statute by rejecting India’s request to “hold the promulgation for at least 15 days” for taking the agitating parties on board.
A senior Maoist leader suspects that some kind of agreement has brought Oli and Dahal together. Some hint at Dahal’s desire to rebuild his party for which he needs power and resources. “An alliance with Oli for a larger power-sharing deal was urgent for him,” said the leader.
For years, Oli remained second fiddle to Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal in the UML. Nepal and Khanal both became the party chiefs before him and later prime ministers back to back.
Oli, who was criticised for his lacklustre role during the second people’s movement in 2006, was not taken seriously in politics until he was elected lawmaker from his home town Jhapa in the second CA elections, 2013. Immediately later, he became the UML Parliamentary Party leader defeating sitting party chairman Khanal. He took complete control of the party within a year when he contested for party chairmanship against Nepal, and edged him out in the race.
Having been influenced by Marxist and Leninist philosophies, Oli entered communist politics in 1966. He went underground in 1970 after taking membership of the Nepal Communist Party. The same year, he was arrested for the first time by then Panchayat regime. In 1971, he took leadership of the Jhapa Rebellion which was initiated by beheading landlords in the district. Between 1973 and 1987, Oli spent a total of 14 years behind bars in different jails of the country.