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A hundred days of incertitude

However you want to score the first 100 days of Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli’s second government, you have to admit that the man has not lost his capacity to confound us.
Those measuring Oli’s government against his specific election promises will understandably be disappointed. What should hearten them is that our prime minister has zeroed in on specific actions that weren’t in his original line of sight.
The government’s campaigns against transport syndicates and gold smuggling rackets, among other things, have been gutsy. Its clampdown on construction contractors failing to meet their deadlines and paring the heavy calendar of public holidays has won similar public support.
The odds were getting pretty heavy against the unification of Oli’s Unified Marxist Leninists with the Maoist Centre. Yet through some still-hazy last-minute sleight of hand, Oli formalized the amalgamation. Of course, discontent persists on both sides over the wisdom of unity.
Oli and Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ couldn’t name the new party right. Nor could they distribute posts to the satisfaction of the principals’ ambitions or the Election Commission (in terms of women’s representation in the latter’s case). But, hey, everything is a work in progress these days.
On the external front, a man who was widely expected to bolster Nepal’s ties to China ended up building new bridges with India. It probably won’t matter whether or how much Oli’s stock has risen or fallen up north because the Chinese and Indians seem primarily to be talking to each other over Nepal. Meanwhile, we’re too busy measuring whose promises are taller to ponder who might fulfill them first in earnest. One direct effect of this preoccupation is the limit it sets on the opposition’s lampasarbad line, which enjoyed an incredible initial run.
The main opposition Nepali Congress shrewdly hyped the ‘creeping totalitarianism’ line once Oli began consolidating power in the Prime Minister’s Office. Clearly, the government’s amnesty plan for Maoist convicts, failure to make key appointments and looming signs of a center-province collision provided extra fodder to the opposition. Yet the Nepali Congress’ 100-day report card reflected a reticence to go on a full-blown offensive against the Oli government.
A party riven by internal dissension may see the communist resurgence as an opportunity for its own rejuvenation. The window of opportunity is narrowing quickly, though. Veer right, left or stay put, the Nepali Congress cannot afford to allow too much fuzziness surround what it intends to do.
The other opposition parties and personalities are understandably intent on making the most of the situation from their respective points on the ideological spectrum. Collectively, they are doing what they do best: oppose the government.
And Oli has made that job easier through some glaring anomalies. While basking in public adulation over its transport-syndicate busting, the government transferred the key bureaucrat who spearheaded that effort. The official response to media and public reactions went on to raise more questions.
Similarly, the Oli government made much about ordering the closure of the Indian Embassy’s Biratnagar field office. New Delhi, however, insisted that it was planning to do so anyway.
The upshot: Oli hasn’t fulfilled all of his promises. But he has done a lot of things he hadn’t promised. Now, what grade does that kind of record merit?

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