Oli has returned to Baluwatar and he is making it look like he is back in the officeA day after being discharged, the prime minister and ruling party chair holds brief meetings with leaders, as he braces for challenges on government and party fronts.
Hours before his discharge from hospital after a second kidney transplant, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Friday afternoon took to Twitter to respond to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“I welcome the idea advanced by Prime Minister Modiji @narendramodi for chalking out a strong strategy by the leadership of the SAARC nations to fight Coronavirus. My government is ready to work closely with the SAARC Member States to protect our citizens from this deadly disease,” Oli tweeted from his official twitter handle @PM_Nepal.
It looked like a statement from Oli that, as he was returning to Baluwatar from the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, he was back in the office.
Hours later, videos of Oli coming out of the hospital appeared. He looked frail. As he waved to his well-wishers and journalists, he almost stumbled only to be assisted by his aides to his vehicle. Many on social media questioned the poor handling by doctors and Oli’s aides, as to why he was made to walk without a face mask, as Friday was just the 10th day since he was operated for a kidney transplant.
Just last week, doctors at a press briefing had said it could take at least six months for Oli to resume his daily work. “We will discharge him only after we are confident and comfortable about the prime minister’s health,” Dr Dibya Singh Shah, Oli’s personal physician, told the press.
On Friday, a doctor involved in Oli’s treatment told the Post that the prime minister was actually kept at the hospital for at least two more days, as normally transplant patients can return home a week after the surgery.
Doctors have said Oli’s health is stable.
Now that Oli has returned to Baluwatar, many believe he will soon start taking part in party activities and government affairs.
On Saturday, Oli held a meeting with his Secretariat members.
“We exercised caution and with the permission from doctors, the prime minister held a brief meeting with some select leaders,” said Rajan Bhattarai, Oli’s foreign affairs adviser.
Bishnu Rimal, Oli’s chief advisor, posted some images on Twitter where Oli is seen talking to leaders including party General Secretary Bishnu Poudel.
Even at 69, with the history of ailments, Oli is seen as a person with great willpower, who often even makes light of his medical conditions. Days before he was hospitalised for his kidney transplant, Oli had declared that he would stay in hospital for five days to return to the office on the sixth day.
Many wonder whether it was Oli himself who pressed for his early discharge from the hospital, given the void he had left while being admitted to it. Before his hospitalisation, Oli did not name anyone as the officiating prime minister to look after day-to-day governance.
His engagement with the party members just a day after his discharge is also seen as his intent to get back to work as soon as possible.
Insiders say there are challenges galore for Oli, as the party chair and prime minister, hence Oli is trying to give an impression that he is back to work.
On the government front, the immediate challenge for Oli will be to find a way out to deal with the economic situation of the country affected by the global outbreak of Covid-19 which has jolted even economic superpowers across the world.
Oli, however, appears more concerned about party affairs.
Days before Oli went into surgery, a conflict was simmering in the ruling party, with Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the other party chair, directly pitted against each other.
Developments in recent months had relegated Oli to a minority, with Dahal wresting control of the party.
Bishnu Rijal, a central member close to senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal, who has emerged as a key leader in the party in the wake of the Oli-Dahal conflict, said the prime minister faces challenges both on the party and government fronts.
“Oli’s decisions are crucial, as he is the party chair as well as prime minister,” Rijal told the Post.
Much will depend on Oli’s move when it comes to party dynamics, as the Dahal camp, by and large, has remained intact, with senior leaders like Nepal, Bamdev Gautam and Jhala Nath Khanal maintaining their alliance.
The major bone of contention between the Oli and Dahal camps is the Secretariat decision to send Gautam to the National Assembly. Immediately after the Secretariat decision, Oli had told his confidantes that he won’t nominate Gautam to the National Assembly.
Whether Oli strikes back or takes a conciliatory approach is not clear yet, but party insiders say if Yubaraj Khatiwada’s reappointment as finance minister on the day he went into surgery is anything to go by, it is unlikely for Oli to stay idle.
Dahal of late has not spoken a word about the Gautam affair and largely maintained silence, even though his engagements with leaders from the former UML as well as the Maoist parties have continued. The Dahal camp, however, has maintained that Oli has no other option than to abide by the Secretariat’s decision on Gautam.
On Friday morning also, hours before Oli was discharged, Dahal held a meeting with Nepal and Gautam to discuss ways to ensure that Oli abides by the party Secretariat’s decision.
Earlier on Saturday, Dahal reached Baluwatar and enquired about Oli’s health.
According to Dahal’s Secretariat, both the leaders also discussed some contemporary political issues.
“Dahal congratulated the prime minister on his successful kidney transplant and wished for a speedy recovery,” said Surya Kiran Sharma, Dahal’s press coordinator.
Oli also met with senior leader Nepal separately earlier on Saturday.
Party insiders say both Oli and Dahal will do better to the party and the people if they decide to work together.
When Oli’s CPN-UML and Dahal’s Maoist Centre had announced their merger to form the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) in May 2018, both leaders had described themselves as “co-pilots” of an aircraft.
Over the last two years, the two leaders, however, have been engaged in their own machinations to outdo the other. In recent months, Dahal emerged victorious, causing unease in the Oli camp.
“At this point in time, the best way forward for Oli will be to abide by the party’s decision,” said Rijal. “There are other pressing concerns too and the prime minister’s role will be more required in governance. The coronavirus threat still continues to loom; Oli needs to focus on the government.”