PM plays politics in the time of pandemic

Kathmandu, April 20

President Bidhya Devi Bhandari today issued two ordinances to amend the provisions of Constitutional Council (Functions Duties and Powers) Act, and Political Party Act on the recommendation of the Council of Ministers.

According to president’s Personal Aide Bhesh Raj Adhikari, the ordinance related to Political Party Act amends the provision of the act allowing leaders of a political party to split the party if they have   40 per cent support either in the central committee or the parliamentary party. The current provisions of the Political Party Act mandate leaders of a political party to have 40 per cent members of the central committee and parliamentary party on their side to split the party.

Minister of Industry, Commerce and Supplies Lekhraj Bhatta, who is a former Maoist leader, told THT that Foreign Minister Pradeep Gywali and Energy Minister Barshaman Pun told the Cabinet that it would be better to defer the agenda but did not object to the PM’s proposal to bring ordinances.

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s decision to bring the ordinance to amend the provisions of the Political Party Act riled the rival faction led by Co-chair of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Pushpa Kamal Dahal. This sudden political development also reflects the deepening   factional feud between Oli and Dahal within the NCP.

Dahal called some Cabinet ministers representing former Maoist party at his house and expressed dismay at the PM’s decision to endorse the two ordinances without discussing the issue with him, according to a source. Dahal then hastily called a party Secretariat meeting to discuss the issues. Dahal’s personal aide Bishnu Sapkota said Dahal was not happy over the PM’s decision to bring the two ordinances before the summer session of the Parliament without discussing the issues within the party or with opposition parties. The PM’s move comes at a time when the entire machinery of the country has been mobilised to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Dahal faction interprets Oli’s decision to bring the ordinance to amend the Political Party Act as a bid to split the party in case the Dahal faction tries to censure him. “Oli may have brought the ordinance to give the message that party leaders, including the Dahal faction, could form another party if they could not remain united in the party,” a source close to Dahal told THT on condition of anonymity. He said Oli took the unprecedented step also to make it easy for the dissidents of other political parties to form their splinter parties. Dahal called an NCP Secretariat meeting to discuss the issue.

Rift between Dahal and Oli has widened over the formation of an all-party mechanism to deal with COVID-19 threat. Dahal recently proposed forming an all-party mechanism to deal with the threat of COVID-19 pandemic, incurring the wrath of Oli.

Oli told Rastriya Samachar Samiti that there was no such mechanism in any elected democracy to deal with COVID-19 pandemic.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on April 21, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.