KP Oli is Nepal’s strongest prime minister since the Ranas, yet as he marks his first year in office on Friday why does he appear so embattled?
Oli has everything going for him: a strong majority in Parliament, a demoralised opposition, some young can-do ministers. But instead of communicating his accomplishments, he spent an entire interview this week attacking critics. (See below). Social media ridicule of his wild promises, skepticism of his schemes for social security or unemployment allowance make him defensive.
Instead of the opposition, Oli is battling ex-Maoist hardliners within his own party. The row over parallel statements on Venezuela, rift over celebrating the start of the Maoist revolution on Wednesday have put Oli on a collision course with co-Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Even worse, Oli’s own former UML comrades mutter privately that he is going alone and listening to poor advice.
We asked Oli this week to fill out his own report card on the first year of his second time as prime minister. Sound bites:
- They were jealous of my popularity two years ago, they accused me of being a nationalist. They were afraid Nepal would really develop under my leadership. The same thing is happening this time. No one talks about my achievements on federalism, the social security scheme, our progress in infrastructure. All the negative publicity is from people who cannot bear to see me being successful.
- There is an ideological prejudice. They are spreading disinformation about Indians needing work permits, disturbing Nepal’s foreign relations, they say I am constricting press freedom and democracy. Who are these people who never fought for democracy, now saying it is threatened? A few are spreading fake news, it does not represent public opinion.
- They ridicule me about railways and shipping, the really ridiculous thing is that with its great potential Nepal is still poor, there is greed and conspiracy, Nepalis still go hungry.
- Freedom of expression does not mean you can defame people, use foul language, be uncivil, indulge in character assassination. There is a trend to undermine the very people who are trying to stabilise society and take Nepal forward.
- There is an organised effort to spread lies that Nepal is a dictatorship, it is not investment-friendly. Political parties pass resolutions warning foreigners not to invest here. Have you heard these critics ever talk about the extortion and loot by Biplav’s faction.
- Federalism is work in progress. We are in uncharted territory to implement power devolution, make new laws, restructure the civil service, we have to convince those who do not accept the constitution. There used to be one government, now there are 753 local, 7 provincial and 1 national governments. It is not easy to make them all pull together.
This was our base year, we have given a glimpse of the future, built the foundation, gave Nepal direction. Now we will move on governance, development, and performance.
Full text of interview in Nepali here.