Oli’s address to the nation didn’t validate dissolution of House, observers sayThe ‘strongest prime minister in Nepal’s modern history’ can’t say his own comrades didn’t allow him to work, they argue.
While the “strongest prime minister ever in Nepal’s modern history” accused his own party members of cornering his government and not allowing it to function, observers, and even leaders of the ruling party, quashed his claims.
“I don’t see the significance of his defence as he has damaged things as much as he could,” said party Standing Committee member Beduram Bhusal.
In his over 20-minute-long address, a fatigued-looking Oli recounted his achievements as prime minister in the last three years. He held his party co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, whom he didn’t name in this speech, responsible for creating a mess. “When the government was formed after setting aside various obstacles, it had started working as per the expectations of the people,” said Oli. “After that, some leaders relentlessly tried to send a message of instability. Even before the government completed its first year, some leaders went abroad to spread the message of instability while others, when the prime minister was out of the country, sought help from lifeguards saying that the country was drowning.”
During his visit to India in September 2018, Dahal in his interviews to Indian media outlets had claimed that he and Oli were bound by a gentlemen’s agreement under which the two leaders would take turns to become prime minister. Oli had later denied that such a pact even existed.
Oli had made similar remarks during a gathering of parliamentarians at Baluwatar on Monday. Parliament was not dissolved out of the blue, Oli had told lawmakers aligned to his camp. But the dissolution came as some party leaders always tried to create obstacles in front of his government ever since its formation.
According to lawmakers present during the meeting, Oli said that the elected government didn’t have a choice but to seek a fresh mandate from the people.
But Oli’s critics say the prime minister is not owning up to his own failure and blaming others for it. “Oli had enough time to deliver by forming a strong team. But he did not do that. Now he is blaming others for his failure; no one believes him,” said Bhusal, the Standing Committee member, adding that a section of the ruling party and opposition parties will stand together to thwart Oli’s attempt to dissolve the House.
Oli repeatedly used the word “siege” during his address and said that attempts were made to file a no-confidence motion against his government and summon the House session without the prior knowledge of the prime minister, party chair and the party parliamentary leader.
“I could not see a single word of self-confession in his address,” said noted political analyst Shyam Shrestha. “He lied to the nation.”
Oli claimed that his government had done enough work in favour of the people, stood ground for nationalism, initiated boundary talks with India and implementation of the trade and transit agreement with China was gathering momentum.
Oli credited himself for publishing Nepal’s new map and recalled that he faced the situation head on even when his government was toppled in 2016 after the economic blockade. Drawing parallels to the events that led to his dismissal that year, Oli said, “The characters are the same, the situation is the same, but the context is different.”
“Does it not show that some of our leaders are pushing the country towards perpetual instability?”
But Shrestha refuted Oli’s statement. “Oli is the main source of instability in the country today and is responsible for the situation the country finds itself in. Oli had a great chance to lead and govern the country but he failed,” added Shrestha.
During his Monday’s address, Oli, after defending his call to dissolve the House, urged the youth and party leaders to participate in the electoral process. He also urged the party leaders to forget the bitterness of the past bitterness head towards elections to strengthen the party’s unity.
The prime minister’s move is deeply flawed for various other reasons as well, said Nepali Congress lawmaker and legal expert Radheshyam Adhikari.
“First, Oli announced elections in the midst of a pandemic. Second, is it possible to conduct elections at a time when major parties are preparing for protests?”
Adhikari, who doubts the elections will take place on time, said that Oli should have stepped down after dissolving the House of Representatives, but he did not do so. “So it seems that he dissolved the House just to escape the no-confidence motion. Then an important legal question arises: What is the status of the Oli government? Is he a caretaker prime minister now ?”
All prime ministers who dissolved the House in the past had tendered their resignation after announcing fresh elections, but Oli hasn’t done so, said Adhikari. “ I doubt he intends to hold elections.”
Oli's recommendation to dissolve the lower House and announce dates (April 30 and May 10) for fresh elections was swiftly approved by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, whose role as the “patron of the constitution” is now being questioned.
Some ruling party leaders are also worried by the statement issued by the president’s office on Sunday justifying the dissolution of the House. Besides quoting articles 76 and 85, Bhandari presented international parliamentary practices as justification for her action.
“Oli’s move is unconstitutional no doubt, but the way the president cited international practices may have serious implications,” said former finance minister and party Standing Committee member Surendra Pandey.
“If we start copying international practices, it may not be appropriate for the country,” said Pandey. “Nepal’s context, background, and political circumstances are different from that of other countries. References to international practices should be taken seriously,” added Pandey.