With Oli likely to be out of commission for longer, concerns about governance remainDespite Oli and his party leaders’ assurances that he will be back to work soon, doctors have said it could take up to six months for him to recover fully.
Before going to the hospital for his second kidney transplant, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, in a video message, said that he had “put in place all the measures” to deal with day-to-day governance. But a week since Oli went into surgery, those measures have yet to come into effect as governance and politics have all but come to a halt. Oli did not even bother to name an officiating prime minister, leaving no one in charge of state affairs while he is convalescing.
After a successful surgery, Oli is currently recuperating, but on Tuesday, doctors said that it would take at least six months for the prime minister to be able to properly resume his work.
Though ruling party leaders say it is not appropriate to link governance with the prime minister’s health at this point of time, they agree that a political question is looming regarding what happens in his absence.
“As far as I know, the prime minister will remain in hospital for another four to five days,” said Narayan Kaji Shrestha, spokesperson for the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP). “It is a medical question when he will be discharged.”
The impacts of the global Covid-19 outbreak have been far-reaching and Nepal’s economy too is staring at a slowdown, markets are running dry of some daily essentials and tourism is taking a beating. People wondering how the government will respond and the executive head’s working presence at this current juncture is vital, say political analysts.
“The country is already reeling from several challenges,” said Krishna Pokhrel, a professor of political science at Tribhuvan University. “If it is going to take time for the prime minister to fully recover and resume work, he and his party should take a call.”
The last Cabinet meeting that Oli chaired was on March 1, a day before he was admitted to the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital. He underwent a kidney transplant surgery on March 4.
There has been no Cabinet meeting since.
On Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Ishwar Pokhrel called an all-party meeting to discuss challenges surrounding Covid-19. Pokhrel, however, chaired the meeting largely in his capacity as coordinator of the high-level committee to control coronavirus, rather than as officiating executive head.
Meanwhile, party activities have also taken a backseat in the absence of Oli, who is one of the party chairs.
With Oli in hospital, the party’s other chair, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, has also retired to his home, complaining of the flu. Other senior party leaders have also refrained from any activity ever since Oli was admitted.
As per a decision made at the latest Central Committee meeting, the government and the party need to work in tandem. But there is a lull in the party for now.
Ruling party leaders said that doctors have advised the prime minister to take extra precaution while meeting people.
One critical aspect of a kidney transplant is that the patient needs to be administered immunosuppressants in high doses, which raises the risk of infection.
“The prime minister cannot go on a nationwide campaign, hold mass rallies or address gatherings, but he can hold meetings or give directives after he is discharged from the hospital,” said Rajendra Gautam, a parliamentarian who has close relations with Oli. “The prime minister will hold Cabinet meetings and will run the country while adhering to the medical advice given by his doctors.”
On Tuesday, during a press briefing on Oli’s health, Dibya Singh Shah, Oli’s personal physician, said that the prime minister will not be discharged until doctors are confident of his continued well-being.
“It may take at least six months for the prime minister to resume work,” said Shah.
However, at Wednesday’s briefing, doctors stopped short of providing details, except for saying that the prime minister is recovering well.
Shrestha, the party spokesperson, said there is no urgency as such at this time as far as political and governance issues are concerned.
“Let him return from hospital, let us give him some time to rest,” Shrestha told the Post.
Gautam the parliamentarian outright ruled out any prospects of Oli stepping down as prime minister and party chair.
“There is no question about it, even though some people might have been talking about it,” said Gautam.
Political scientists, however, say that the prime minister’s health is definitely a cause for concern—for the country and the people.
“It would be heartless to make unnecessary comments about the prime minister’s health and how he will run the country once he is discharged from hospital,” said Pokhrel. “But given some pressing issues, the challenges that the country is facing, and the fact that the prime minister cannot resume work anytime soon, Oli himself and the party should take an appropriate decision.”