Prime Minister (PM) KP Sharma Oli has once again been isolated after bringing the controversial ordinance about Constitutional Council.
PM Oli on April 20 had also issued an ordinance allowing appointments at constitutional bodies through majority of the Constitutional Council. He had also brought another ordinance allowing splitting of political parties with support of 40 percent in the central committee or parliamentary party.
He had stepped back after widespread opposition from within the ruling party and outside, and decided to withdraw the two ordinances four days later.
PM Oli has again issued the ordinance about the Constitutional Council with the same provisions eight months on. President Bidya Devi Bhandari has again hastily authenticated the ordinance that was not even discussed in the Cabinet like then.
The Constitutional Council Act requires presence of four members apart from the PM who chairs the council for quorum. Oli has issued the ordinance with a provision that allows decision with support of the majority of the existing members. This means three members can now hold the meeting and take decision. In other words, it has paved the way for PM Oli to take decision in presence of the chief justice (CJ) and the National Assembly chairman.
The Constitution envisions presence of all three organs of the state and the main opposition party in the Constitutional Council to ensure that the government does not make unilateral appointments in constitutional bodies. The Constitutional Council chaired by the PM therefore includes chief justice (CJ), House speaker and deputy speaker, National Assembly chairman and the main opposition leader.
PM Oli by bringing the ordinance has effectively ousted the main opposition leader and House speaker from the Constitutional Council rendering them redundant in appointments in constitutional bodies. This is a coup d'état by the PM on Constitutional Council against the spirit of Constitution.
This arbitrary step has once again isolated the PM in Nepali politics. The ordinance has been roundly criticized inside Oli's party and outside.
The main opposition Nepali Congress (NC) has made its stance against the ordinance clear. The main opposition leader Sher Bahadur Deuba has not attended the Constitutional Council meeting convened Tuesday evening after the ordinance was brought. He has revealed that he had warned that NC will not support if Oli were to bring an ordinance.
PM Oli did not consult inside ruling CPN before bringing the ordinance. Ministers have said the issue was not discussed even in the Cabinet meeting held before it was issued.
The other Chairman of CPN Pushpa Kamal Dahal has already demanded immediate revocation of the ordinance stating that it has been brought without consulting the party. Other CPN leaders have also publicly slammed the ordinance. Janardan Sharma, who is close to Dahal, has called the ordinance height of the self-interest of government. NC Vice-president Bimalendra Nidhi has called issue of the ordinance totalitarian and autocratic step. He has commented that this has blatantly attacked the Constitution and system.
Oli, who has been cornered inside ruling CPN, does not seem to be in the mood to step back this time despite widespread condemnation of the ordinance. He seems to have taken the confrontational step after Speaker Agni Sapkota took the decision to not attend Constitutional Council meeting after consulting with Dahal and Senior Leader Madhav Kumar Nepal.
Deputy PM and secretariat member Ishwar Pokharel, who is close to Oli, has commented that the ordinance has been brought as the Constitutional Council has been stuck without capacity to do any work. But this step by PM Oli does not look right either on the crucible of practicality or the spirit of Constitution.
Oli, who is in acute minority inside the ruling party, seems determined to make appointments in constitutional bodies by staging the coup on Constitutional Council. He seems to see political benefits for him even if the party were to split.
But he has grossly under-estimated the harm this step can do for him. This step will further boost the anti-Oli environment inside CPN. By taking an arbitrary step of this extent for his personal interest, PM Oli has justified the efforts inside the party to oust him.