Opposition demands answer from government why Oli is skipping House meetingsThe prime minister has not attended a single meeting of the budget session of the House which commenced on Friday.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli was to address the House of Representatives on the first day of the budget session on Friday.
As per parliamentary tradition, the leader of the leader of the majority, who is also the prime minister, addresses the House on the first day of its new session.
But instead of Oli, Subash Nembang, the deputy parliamentary party leader of the ruling Nepal Communist Party, addressed the House on Friday. Sher Bahadur Deuba, the leader of the main opposition Nepali Congress, however, had put forth his views at Friday's meeting. After Oli failed to show up on Tuesday also, when the fourth meeting of the budget session commenced, opposition lawmakers questioned why the prime minister was avoiding the House.
“Our prime minister has been absent from the very first day of the ongoing session. We have heard that he has already announced his successor," said Nepali Congress lawmaker Dilendra Badu while speaking at Tuesday’s meeting of the House of Representatives. “Is that the reason for his absence? Or is there any other very important reason for him to not attend the House meeting?” Badu demanded that the government inform the House about the prime minister’s continued absence.
On Friday, the first day of the budget session, top leaders from the opposition parties had demanded answers from the government on its two controversial ordinances, the alleged involvement of the state in the abduction of Janata Samajbadi Party leader Dr Surendra Yadav and the poor handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Deuba and Baburam Bhattarai, a leader of the Janata Samajbadi Party, even went on to say that the Oli government had lost its political and moral grounds to govern the country.
From the government side, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali addressed the House, but he focused only on India’s move of opening a road link to Lipulekh. Except for Gyawali, no one from the government has responded to the lawmakers’ queries so far.
Nepali Congress lawmakers say Oli should have been in the House for two reasons. First, he has to respond to various issues raised against him in the House and second, it is necessary that an executive head listens to lawmakers when the pre-budget discussion is ongoing.
Minister for Finance Yubraj Khatiwada on Sunday presented the government's priority and principle for the new budget before the House.
“The upcoming budget is not like any other budget in the past. This has to address so many complications Nepal has never gone through in the past,” Bal Krishna Khand, chief whip of the main opposition, told the Post. “However, Oli is neither bothered to clear the allegations against his government nor is sensitive towards the new budget.”
The pre-budget discussion that started on Sunday concludes Wednesday once Khatiwada responds to concerns raised by the lawmakers.
The prime minister’s continued absence in the House also has raised concerns over his health, as he underwent a second kidney transplant on March 4. Ram Sharan Bajgain, an aide to Oli, however, said Prime Minister Oli's health condition is good and that he has been doing his daily work.
“The prime minister doesn’t need to go to the House every day,” Bajgain told the Post. “I don’t think this is a big issue. Even in the past, prime ministers never went to the House every day.”
Bajgain said Oli was busy preparing for the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. “He has been busy with other work as well,” said Bajgain.
The budget session had commenced on the heels of a simmering conflict in the ruling Nepal Communist Party, with the majority of its Secretariat and Standing Committee meeting members bent on demanding Oli’s resignation. Oli, however, had managed to pacify the members and ultimately postpone the scheduled Standing Committee meeting.
Some disgruntled members, who are also lawmakers of the ruling party, had even warned that they would raise some governance issues in Parliament if they are not given an opportunity to speak at party committee meetings.
Political experts say that Oli appears to be trying to avoid Parliament as he wants the allegations against him to fade away with time. They said he also had tried to avoid the party’s Standing Committee meeting because he would be grilled. The Standing Committee meeting, however, has been convened on Wednesday after continued pressure from dissenting party leaders to do so.
Chandra Dev Bhatta, a political commentator, said Oli is trying to run away from accountability. “Also, this government has been undermining Parliament since long. And Olis absence in the House suggests he doesn’t respect it,” he told the Post.