“I had no other option,” PM Oli

Prime Minister K P Oli has lashed out at rivals within the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) for creating obstacles every step of the way in the past three years, saying this is what forced him to take the “extreme action” of dissolving the Lower House on Sunday.

He named party co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and former UML colleague Madhav Kumar Nepal and others as being the ones who did not want him to succeed in unifying the NCP into “a great and strong party”.

“I took the decision with a heavy heart to go back to the people for a new mandate because they just did not allow me to get anything done,” Oli told a meeting of his supporters and MPs in Baluwatar on Monday morning. “It was not my personal preference to dissolve the House. There was no other way.”

He said he was committed to unifying the party at every level, but was not allowed to do this by the Dahal-Nepal faction. New elections to the House have been announced for 30 April and 10 May 2021.

Oli’s remarks follow scathing criticism in Nepal’s mainstream press, with the daily broadsheets lashing out at his ‘unconstitutional and anti-democratic move’ in front page commentaries and editorials on Monday (pictured above).

People protest PM Oli's decision to dissolve the Lower House. Photos: BIKRAM RAI

President Bidya Devi Bhandari has been singled out for particular attacks for having given her backing to the prime minister’s recommendation to dissolve the House. Street protests by the opposition Nepali Congress (NC) as well as Dahal-Nepal loyalists of the NCP on Sunday continued into Monday in cities around Nepal. Many of them chanted slogans against Oli and President Bhandari, burning them in effigy. Placards called them ‘murderers of democracy’.

Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai, who is close to Madhav Kumar Nepal, and who was among the seven Cabinet ministers who resigned on Sunday, said that he tried his best to talk the prime minister out of dissolving the House.

“We resigned because we could not convince the prime minister not to take such a drastic step,” said Bhattarai. “If cool heads prevail, we can still revive the Lower House. It has not reached a point of no return yet.”

Interestingly, Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa who was among former Maoists in the Cabinet who did not join other seven ministers in resigning on Sunday, was not present at the Baluwatar meeting. Two other former Maoist NCP members, however, were present.

Meanwhile, Lumbini Province Chief Minister Shankar Pokhrel, who is a close adviser to Oli, defended the prime minister’s decision and said it was a pre-emptive move to forestall a vote of no confidence in the House by 90 Dahal-Nepal supporters.

“It was forced on us, we had to go for a fresh mandate through elections,” he said. “The comrades were going against the party’s principles and working to bring a rift within the party.”

Bibeksil Sajha Party cadres protest against the dissolution of the House of Representatives at Maitighar Mandala. Photos: BIKRAM RAI

Most media commentators have said that Prime Minister Oli’s drastic move was unnecessary, and could have easily been avoided through compromise because at the heart of the dispute was just that the Dahal-Nepal faction were feeling left out of key decisions and appointments.

Pokhrel added: “It is accepted in a democracy that when an electoral outcome is not relevant or faces challenges, the head of government can call a snap election. This will only strengthen democracy, and avoid the need to take to the streets and help reactionary elements.”

Also present in Monday’s meeting with the Prime Minster were his close confidantes, Finance Minister Bishnu Poudel, his predecessor Ishwar Pokhrel, former Speaker Subhas Nemwang.

Supporters of Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Nepal also met on Monday in the Parliament Building, with some calling for the Lower House to reconvene despite the dissolution.

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