Nepalese PM KP Sharma Oli faces heat from party colleagues

Gautam, vice chair of Nepal Communist Party, was promised the PM’s chair, when last April Oli assured Gautam that he would step down and make way for him in future, ET has learnt from political sources in Kathmandu. To corner Oli, Gautam has now r...

Agencies
Nepal watchers say it is the combination of power struggle, one-upmanship and the nationalist plank that can unseat the Oli government.
New Delhi: Nepalese PM KP Sharma Oli’s old colleague and Communist leader Bam Dev Gautam is allegedly leading the revolt against him from within the party, exposing sharp divisions within the ruling dispensation and threatening Oli’s office.

Gautam, vice chair of Nepal Communist Party, was promised the PM’s chair, when last April Oli assured Gautam that he would step down and make way for him in future, ET has learnt from political sources in Kathmandu.

To corner Oli, Gautam has now raised the issue of “compromises” made by Nepal to conclude the Mahakali Treaty with India in 1996. Oli had backed the treaty.


Nepal watchers say it is the combination of power struggle, one-upmanship and the nationalist plank that can unseat the Oli government.

Allegation of “Indian interference” to unseat governments in Kathmandu has been a common refrain in Nepal’s politics for decades across different regimes, say Nepal watchers. Even, former Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, aka Prachanda, is eyeing the post of PM. Sources in Kathmandu believe that Dahal and his allies, including senior leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal, Gautam and Narayan Kaji Shrestha, are preparing to demand that Oli choose between the party chair or the prime ministership. They are opposed to Oli’s unilateral style of functioning.

Oli’s nationalist plank pitted against India, which resulted in the new political map showing Indian territories as part of Nepal, has faced a big challenge in the Mahakali Treaty.
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Gautam has been a staunch opponent of the Mahakali Treaty ever since it was signed. Gautam and other key leaders of the erstwhile UML split the party over their differences on the Mahakali Treaty. Late,r Gautam returned to the party fold and went on to become he Deputy PM of Nepal.

The Mahakali Treaty, signed in February 1996 between India and Nepal, pertains to sharing water of the Mahakali river. Nepal recently issued a new map depicting Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani as Nepal’s territories and Nepal’s stated position is that Limpiyadhura is the origin of the Mahakali river. These territories are part of India though and Lipulekh is in fact a border trading point between India and China.

On Sunday, faced with mounting criticism from both within the ruling Nepal Communist Party and outside, Oli applied a tried-and-tested formula and alleged that plots are being hatched in Delhi and Kathmandu to unseat him.

“PM Oli is doing a great disservice to the people of Nepal and his electorate through such comments. But Oli’s penchant for nationalist rhetoric is well-known, especially at times of crisis,” a Nepal watcher pointed out.
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The Oli government has been criticised from across the political spectrum and by the public for its failures on multiple fronts, particularly the Covid-19 pandemic. But just as the criticism was intensifying, Oli pushed hard to release the new political map and incorporate it into the Constitution, briefly winning over the parties and the public.

But with the map being passed in Parliament, his critics are sharpening knives. Sunday’s comments show that Oli is preparing for confrontation, political sources told ET from Kathmandu.
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“Instead of presenting his issues at the ongoing party meeting, Oli presented his views outside, which will do more harm than good,” Maheswor Dahal, a Central Committee member of the ruling party, told The Kathmandu Post.

“It’s surprising that the prime minister skipped the party’s meeting but talked against party leaders at a different forum. It will certainly further escalate the intra-party conflict.”
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