Prime Minister Oli attempts to get all leaders on his side as Cabinet reshuffle loomsThe planned reshuffle has been delayed due to the prime minister’s desire to gain broad consensus within the party for whatever he has planned.
The Cabinet reshuffle that was supposed to take place at the end of the week never materialised but Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, who is also co-chair of the ruling Nepal Communist Party, has been holding marathon sessions with party leaders in order to bring them all on board with his restructuring plans.
Oli has been meeting with Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal for several hours every day, despite the fact that the two have not seen eye-to-eye in recent months. Oli has also been speaking to Madhav Kumar Nepal, a senior leader who has long felt slighted by the two chairmen.
Party leaders say that Oli is trying to mend fences with dissatisfied leaders in order to gain party-wide support for the reshuffle.
“Oli has been talking with former UML leaders just to make the environment conducive, even though there are several problems in their relations,” said Beduram Bhusal, a standing committee member who has close relations with Nepal. “But for us to trust him, his words need to translate into action.”
Ever since his discharge from the hospital after undergoing two rounds of haemodialysis, Oli’s manoeuvrings have taken on a frenetic pace. Leaders had started mulling over leadership change when Oli went on a decision-making spree, firing and hiring provincial governors, asking his secretariat members to step down and planning a major rehaul in his Cabinet.
Party insiders believe that Oli is even considering allowing Dahal to look after the party, instead of sharing leadership of the government as he had promised in the gentleman’s agreement made before the merger of the UML and Maoist parties.
“We are expecting Oli’s decision to allow Dahal to lead the party, but we need to wait until the next secretariat meeting,” said a secretariat member who asked that he not be named. “The content of Oli’s recent discussions indicates that he is preparing himself for that.”
Among party leaders, Oli has especially been attempting to woo Bamdev Gautam. On Wednesday, Oli held discussions with Gautam, where the latter was reportedly offered a post on the National Assembly. Oli has already elevated Gautam to the post of vice-chair in the party, irking Nepal who lodged a note of dissent.
After plans to have Gautam contest parliamentary by-elections from a number of constituencies fell through, Oli is working to appoint Gautam to the Upper House, say leaders.
“Gautam will probably be appointed deputy prime minister after he is brought into the National Assembly,” said Yubaraj Chaulagain, a central member.
The larger plan here is to have leaders who are loyal to him in all organs of government and the party, should Oli need to take an extended leave of absence to replace his failing kidney.
“For him to continue, Oli needs to have confidantes in all vital places, in party departments, the Cabinet and his personal secretariat,” a party leader told the Post on condition of anonymity.
According to Ghanshyam Bhusal, a standing committee member, having his own people in all positions has always been Oli’s plan.
“He has been doing that for long; he just expedited things of late,” said Bhusal.
If Oli is successful in his current exercise, he’ll be able to kill two birds with one stone. With Oli’s trusted people in plum positions within the party and the government, he will not only become stronger but Co-chair Dahal will be weaker.
Though Oli and Dahal have appeared to be on the same page in recent days, Dahal’s desire to lead the government as part of a deal the two had reached in May last year has not been a secret.
Leaders say that the contents of the new agreement between Oli and Dahal are unknown, but many in the party believe that the latter could forego his desire to lead the government for now and let Oli run the show. Dahal’s ambitious plan is to run the government for a full term should the party win the next elections, according to leaders.
“He [Dahal] has already said in public that leadership of the government need not be shared if he is allowed to run the party alone,” said Devendra Poudel, a standing committee member who is from the Dahal camp. “The two leaders are sitting to finalise that issue. They will then reach a new agreement.”
But the faction that Oli needs to woo the most is one led by Nepal, who has registered a series of notes of dissent in recent months. Nepal has not been happy with Oli’s unilateral decisions. Recently, Nepal was miffed that Oli refused to include the names that he had proposed on the list of governor appointees.
But on Tuesday and Thursday, Oli held two hours-long discussions with Nepal, in an apparent bid to placate him and urge him not to kick up a storm over some crucial decisions he is going to take.
But despite Oli’s attempts to manage leaders in the party, there are some who have emerged in permanent opposition to Oli. Bhim Rawal, a standing committee member, is one of them.
Rawal, who was one of the vice-chairs in the former UML before the merger, has long been unhappy with the way the top leadership has been taking decisions.
“I am not going to comment on issues that a handful of leaders decide on unilaterally without any discussion in the party committees,” Rawal told the Post. “The party needs to operate according to a certain procedure, which is not happening right now.”