In the CPN-UML, Oli has found a new spin doctor— Pradeep GyawaliThe foreign minister lectured on ‘democracy with Nepali flavour’ and morality as he defended House dissolution. Now he says Karnali incident is against parliamentary system.
In a television interview on December 28, a week after President Bidya Devi Bhandari dissolved the House of Representatives on the recommendation of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Gyawali said it would be morally wrong to be in power “if the House is reinstated”.
In the interview with AP1 television, Gyawali said it would be morally wrong for Oli and “all of us” to be in the government if the lower house is reinstated. Oli’s December 20 House dissolution move at that time was being heard by the Supreme Court.
“Naturally, the prime minister won’t remain after that [reinstatement]. He cannot be prime minister morally,” said Gyawali who appeared on the show with an iPad on his hand, all geared to respond to the interviewer. “Even we will lose our posts because we are part of the [dissolution] decision [taken] by the Cabinet.”
Gyawali, a long-time CPN-UML leader, has always been known as an articulate person—a soft-spoken person who often puts his points across with arguments and facts. He has been also known as a person who maintains a friendly demeanour.
When Oli once appointed Gokul Baskota as the government spokesperson, many wondered why he had not chosen Gyawali for the post, as Baskota had his own way of not only making tongue-in-cheek remarks but belittling others, especially his opponents.
Gyawali, however, was said to be carrying that panache of saying things in a manner which looked convincing and reassuring.
But not anymore, it seems.
Gyawali lately has emerged as the best spin doctor for his master—Oli.
Weeks after his statement to the television channel and the Supreme Court decision to reinstate the House, Gyawali, who bragged about “morality”, continues to remain the foreign minister in the Oli Cabinet.
According to constitutional experts, Oli should have, in principle, stepped down after the Supreme Court February 23 decision to overturn his December 20 House dissolution move. By extension, Gyawali should not have been a minister.
He, however, started challenging the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) to withdraw the support it lent Oli back in February 2018, if “it can”.
On April 5, almost a month after the House convened its first meeting as per the court order, Gyawali, who is also the UML spokesperson now, said the government would face the no-confidence motion if it is filed.
He would not say a word on the morality that he was preaching publicly through the television channel.
Hours before the House meeting convened on March 7, the Supreme Court, in a dramatic decision, had revived the UML and the Maoist Centre by scrapping the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), which was formed after the merger of the two pirates in May 2018.
Analysts say the way the UML has lost its moral ground is one thing of late but what is spectacular is Gyawali has been badly exposed.
“I have no doubt Gyawali, Subas Nembang and Shankar Pokharel among others are giving a boost to the Oli tendency,” said Rajendra Maharjan, a political analyst who is also a columnist for the Post’s sister paper Kantipur.
Nembang, who chaired the Constituent Assembly for both of its terms, refused to speak a single word after Oli dissolved the House. A video clip of Nembang had gone viral, in which he was heard saying the constitution does not allow a majority prime minister to dissolve the House and such a provision was included in view of the past experiences of prime ministers dissolving the House at their whims.
While Nembang refused to comment on the matter saying that the House dissolution case was sub judice in court, Gyawali continued to defend Oli.
In an interview with Setopati, Gyawali even went on to describe the country’s current political system as “democracy with Nepali flavour”, something which many failed to decipher. Some tried to draw a parallel with what King Mahendra asserted after seizing power in 1960, saying Nepal needed a partyless Panchayat system to suit the country’s “air, water and soil”.
After the court revived the UML and the Maoist Centre, a struggle has been going on within the UML, as the Madhav Kumar Nepal faction is challenging Oli.
So powerful has Oli become in the UML with the sweeping powers authorised to that on March 29 he suspended Nepal and Bhim Rawal as general members of the party for six months. Days later, Oli similarly suspended Ghanashyam Bhusal and Surendra Pandey on April 1.
The Nepal faction, which also has the backing of senior leader Jhala Nath Khanal, has been building “parallel” party committees.
On Friday, four UML leaders belonging to the Nepal-Khanal faction decided to cross the floor in Karnali to save Chief Minister Mahendra Bahadur Shahi, a Maoist Centre leader, from losing his post.
Once again, it was Gyawali who quickly reacted.
In an interview with the Post’s sister paper Kantipur, Gyawali said the four leaders’ action “is inexcusable” as it was aimed at weakening the party.
The four UML leaders had defied the party whip to vote in favour of Shahi.
“This is an unpardonable step in the parliamentary system,” said Gyawali.
Analysts say if Gyawali really stood for the parliamentary system, he should have objected to Oli’s House dissolution move first.
“Gyawali, therefore, lacks authority to ask questions about political values, principles and norms,” said Maharjan.
Analysts say what happened in Karnali Province is also a strong message to Oli and his confidantes including not only Gyawali but also Gandaki Chief Minister Prithvi Subba Gurung.
While Shahi decided to seek a vote of confidence after the UML withdrew its support on March 17, Gurung in Gandaki Province prorogued the Provincial Assembly on Wednesday night fearing that a no-confidence motion was being filed against him. According to analysts, Gurung followed in his master Oli’s footsteps.
Oli too had prorogued the House of Representatives on July 2 suddenly after sensing that moves were being made to unseat him. On December 20, Oli went a step further—he dissolved the House altogether.
“The Oli faction should answer about its move in Gandaki Province before raising questions about the move of its Provincial Assembly members in Karnali,” Surendra Labh, a political commentator, told the Post. “There is a sheer lack of political culture in parties across the political spectrum, but the UML simply tops the chart.”
According to experts, while it may be a serious issue when lawmakers disobey the party directives, the UML-led government, which has made records in breaching the system, holds no moral grounds to criticise the move by its members in Karnali.
“It is an irony that the UML, which has left no opportunity to attack the constitution, governance and the parliamentary system as long as it suits it, is talking about democratic and parliamentary principles,” Shyam Shrestha, a political analyst who follows the left politics closely, told the Post. “One should lead by example to raise such moral questions against others.”