Prime Minister KP Oli’s deteriorating health is setting off a hidden, yet intense, jostling for succession within the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP).
Oli, who is 67, had one of his kidneys transplanted 12 years ago, and sources say it has deteriorated so much that he needs to have dialysis three times a week. Doctors are said to have advised against another transplant because of age and the risk of infection.
Senior officials attending recent meetings with the Prime Minister have noted a visibly infirm appearance, and say the PM had difficulty moving about. But Oli has surprised everyone before by bouncing back from health crises, and his advisers say he has both the mental faculty and physical capacity to do the dialysis in Baluwatar itself.
In wait-and-wait mode, Kiran Nepal
Prime Minister’s health condition under wraps, Ramu Sapkota
“It is more important for Prime Minister Oli now to think about his health than his hold on power, and this is a good opportunity for him to live on, and not be seen as a political failure,” commentator Shekhar Kharel writes in a commentary for Himal Khabarpatrika.
However with doctors insisting that he rest more, there are now calls for Oli to step down on health grounds — leading to speculation about who next.
After the victory of the left alliance in 2017 and party unification, Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal had a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ that they would take turns at prime ministership, with Oli stepping down halfway through his five-year term. However, the PM has been publicly denying any such agreement, while Dahal tries to refresh the Prime Minister’s memory every chance he gets.
Most party figures say it is certain that it is Dahal’s turn to be prime minister, but add that he may have to give up his powerful party co-chair position. That role is wide open for the many aspirants who have emerged.
As with Girija Prasad Koirala, who conducted affairs of state from his bedside while on an oxygen machine, Oli too is now rarely at his office in Singha Darbar.
Just like during the monarchy days, it looks like Nepal’s leaders want to cling to power until the very end to ensure a succession that is to their liking. However, Dahal’s ascendancy may now be a fait accompli.
By-elections later this month in Kaski, Bhaktapur, Baglung and Dang are seen as a referendum on the NCP’s rule. Analysts say that while the non-performance of the ruling party will be a factor in the polls, the NC is too weak to mount a serious challenge.
Explains political analyst Puranjan Acharya: “It does look like the failures of the ruling party and the opposition cancel each other out, but since the local governments are run by the NCP they may have a slight edge.”