One after another, Oli's key aides court controversy

Published On: April 5, 2020 09:25 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, April 5: Making mockery of his commitment to 'zero tolerance against corruption and leading the country toward prosperity', Prime Minister KP Oli's key confidants in the cabinet have landed into serious controversies of financial irregularities one after another.

Most recently, Minister for Health and Population, Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal, a close confidant of Oli, has been facing charges of irregularities in connection with the agreement to procure most essential medical equipment from China for the prevention and treatment of Covid-19 pandemic in the country.

Similarly, the prime minister's IT consultant Asgar Ali faces public criticism after his web-developer company deleted a news report from an online portal which had questioned his role in the procurement of sub-standard medical goods from China.

Although the prime minister defended Minister Dhakal saying he was not involved in any anomalies, a faction of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has been piling pressure on the prime minister to relieve Dhakal from his ministerial berth.

Gokul Baskota, one of the closest confidants of Prime Minister Oli, was forced to resign from the post of Minister for Communication and Information Technology in February after facing charges of asking for bribes from an agent of security printing press company to purchase the machine for the country.

Given his trust in Baskota, Oli had provided his private house in Balkot, Bhaktapur for Baskota to live there. Despite his low profile in the party politics, Baskota was one of the lucky ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) leaders to become a minister in the Oli cabinet.

Last year, Prime Minister Oli faced criticism after NCP General Secretary Bishnu Paudel was found to be possessing government land in Baluwatar, which was illegally transferred to individuals' names.

Defense Minister in Oli's cabinet, Ishwar Pokharel, who also heads Nepal Trust, is also accused of providing valuable properties of the trust in various hubs of Kathmandu to a business group at cheap fare rates.

According to NCP leader Vijay Paudel, Prime Minister Oli's unilateral decision-making in the party and the act of appointing his loyal leaders in the cabinet has been drawing the ministers and prime minister himself into controversies time and again.

"The prime minister has been facing trouble because of the lack of managerial skills to run the government and the party," Paudel said. "The party also lacks a system paving way for the two chairpersons of the party to pick their loyal leaders in the cabinet who never become accountable to the party."

After being elected to the post of prime minister for the second time with the backing of a two two-thirds majority, Oli decided to appoint his long friends including Baskota among other leaders without consulting the party. But when the other leaders started to question the work performance of some ministers, Oli labeled the feedback as "a disgruntlement of not getting position or power", said the NCP leaders.

"Our party leadership doesn't listen to any suggestion from the party rank and files while taking any decision. They just term our feedback as incited from rival faction or disgruntlement of not getting power," said NCP youth leader Yubaraj Chaulagain. "Those who are close to the leadership don't question any activity of the leadership."

Former parliamentarian Paudel also sees problems in the electoral system of the country that forces the party leaders to make "fishy deals" with businesspersons.

"The problem is in our electoral system. Each and every leader of all political parties make close relations with a few business persons for election campaign funding. Such business parties want to take benefit in return when the leaders rise to power," Paudel said.

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