PM sidesteps question on stepping down

Kathmandu, May 31

Prime Minister and Co-chair of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) KP Sharma Oli today sidestepped crucial questions related to power-sharing deal signed between him and another co-chair of the party, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, leaving many wondering whether he would step down after he completes two-and-a-half years in office.

On 16 May 2018, Oli and Dahal had entered into an agreement to merge CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre to form the NCP. The fourth point of the deal states that the two co-chairs of the party would lead the government on the basis of equality and for equal period. This basically means Oli, who became the PM on 15 February 2018, will have to step down after he completes two-and-a-half years in office and pave the way for Dahal to become the PM.

When he was reminded by journalists in the Indian capital of New Delhi today that he had a year left to step down, he jokingly said, “I don’t even have a year. I have only four to five days left. What can I say?”

PM Oli is a witty person who likes to make tongue-in-cheek remarks. When he was told a copy of the agreement signed between him and Dahal had been made public while he was in New Delhi, the PM said, “The agreement was made public a long time ago. This issue is being unnecessarily brought up now. What can I say? It’s a habit of Nepalis to unnecessarily bring up issues.”

A copy of the deal signed between the two co-chairs of the NCP has been published in a book written by Shubha Shankar Kandel. Although the book, NeKaPa ko Ekta ka Aitihasik Aadharharu, was launched quite some time ago, the issue became a fresh topic of discussion after Dahal said he was confident about things moving forward as per the agreement signed with Oli.

“I do not even want to imagine Oli not quitting after two-and-a-half years in office,” Dahal said in a television interview aired yesterday.

Dahal added that Oli could remain in office for five years if he was able to ensure good governance, develop the country as per the aspirations of people and move ahead forging consensus during the upcoming convention.

He, however, said the NCP had held no discussion on formation of a new government at the moment. “Our discussion is centred on how to enhance the government’s performance and wrap up party unification process as early as possible,” he said.

A day after Dahal made these remarks, Bam Dev Gautam, an influential NCP leader, said the power-sharing deal reached between the two party co-chairs had to be implemented. “If the terms of the agreement are violated, the party unification process may go astray,” he told mediapersons in Pyuthan today, adding, “To lift the confidence of members of the newly merged party, the same person should not lead the party as well as the government.” This implied that Oli should either quit as PM or party co-chair. Gautam has long been a proponent of the concept of ‘one person, one post’.

Ironically, discussions on change in the government led by the NCP, which has support of two-thirds of lawmakers, have surfaced even before the party has completed its unification process.