Series of controversies prompt Oli to evaluate his Cabinet’s performance

  • Evaluations are in preparation for an imminent Cabinet reshuffle, ruling party leaders say.
- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

Jul 10, 2019-

Faced with increasing criticism over a host of controversial decisions, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has started evaluating his Cabinet ministers’ performances in a series of meetings--at least three in the last 24 hours.

Oli held three Cabinet meetings on Monday and Tuesday, and also met with President Bidya Devi Bhandari on Monday evening. During the meetings, ministers discussed ways to prevent controversies while preparing bills and laws.

The ongoing evaluation is aimed at a Cabinet reshuffle, said ruling party leaders, as some recent decisions, from the Guthi Bill to the testing of pesticides on vegetables and fruits imported from India, invited controversy and “tarnished the image of the government”.

Serious deliberations on the Cabinet’s performance and a review of the government will begin from the upcoming Secretariat meeting of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP), scheduled for July 14, said party leaders.

The government is doing a serious review, where its strengths, weaknesses and controversies are being discussed, one minister told the Post.

Bishnu Rimal, chief advisor to the prime minister, said that Oli is evaluating the government’s performance in the past year, but did not confirm whether the reviews were the groundwork for a Cabinet reshuffle. “A review and evaluation process has begun,” said Rimal.

Ruling party leaders, too, said that they saw the need for a change in the government’s working style.

“I see the need for an urgent change in government,” said Ram Karki, a ruling party leader and former communication and information technology minister.

“There is a fascist trend across the globe and we should not be part of that trend. The root of our party is liberal communism, and if we forget our ideology, we will plunge into a deep crisis.”

Oli had already evaluated the performance of the government from November and has since been monitoring works undertaken by various ministries through a mobile application. But several ruling party leaders told the Post that Oli’s Cabinet is increasingly feeling the heat to heed public sentiments. The easiest way out would be a Cabinet reshuffle.

“A Cabinet reshuffle is imminent,” said Surya Thapa, another ruling party leader. “Some ministers appear to be without direction and they have failed to take right decisions. The government has become highly individualistic and the party has failed to back the government.”

According to Thapa, ministers are no longer accountable and are taking haphazard decisions without proper planning or consultations.

“This has taken a toll on the credibility of both the government and the party,” he said.

Most recently, the government was embroiled in a controversy over the testing of fruits and vegetables imported from India. As there was a lack of testing infrastructure at the border, Indian trucks were stuck and their goods left to rot.

The Indian Embassy in Kathmandu had written a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on June 29 for halting the tests and allowing Indian farm products to enter Nepal unhindered. But Oli, along with Commerce Minister Matrika Yadav, had denied that the government had received any such letter.

After copies of the letter were leaked to the press, the Oli administration was finally forced to admit the receipt of letters.

Gokul Baskota, minister for communication and information technology, confirmed on Tuesday that the government had received a letter from the Indian Embassy.

“Governments keep exchanging letters for various purposes. Since we share a border and have our own interests, such exchanges are normal,” Baskota said after the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

The confirmation of Indian pressure on the government’s decision has not sat well with either the public or party leaders.

Senior communist party leader Bam Dev Gautam, who is also the chairman of the All Nepal Peasants’ Organisation, has called on the government to immediately begin testing all vegetables and fruits imported from India.

“Halting the testing of pesticides after the Indian Embassy’s letter was a wrong move,” Gautam said in a statement.

Oli, however, has called on lawmakers from his party to defend his government “like soldiers”.

Published: 10-07-2019 10:27

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