Nepal PM Oli removes defence minister ‘close’ to China

Tuesday 20th October 2020 15:48 EDT

Kathmandu: Nepal’s PM K P Sharma Oli has reshuffled his cabinet, keeping the key defence portfolio with himself, in a bid to strengthen his grip within the fractious ruling party and to allow smooth functioning of his government. Oli has inducted three new ministers, including finance minister Bishnu Poudel, and changed the portfolio of deputy PM and defence minister Ishwor Pokharel.

The dissident faction of the ruling Communist Party of Nepal led by executive chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ was not satisfied with Oli’s latest move, which they considered as one-sided, a source close to the ruling party said. Oli’s move to relieve Pokharel from the defence ministry and retain the portfolio with himself has sparked speculation in the Nepalese political spectrum and the media. “Pokharel, who is known for his tilt towards the North, has been transferred to the PM’s office, apparently in a signal to New Delhi ahead of the forthcoming visit to Nepal by the Indian army chief,” senior journalist and editor of Janamanch Weekly Pralhad Rijal said. Indian Army chief General M M Naravane is scheduled to visit Nepal in the first week of November and the details of the visit is being worked out, a Nepal army spokesperson said.

Mainly there might be two reasons behind the removal of Pokharel - one is his tussle with the Nepal army leadership and another is that Oli wanted to send a signal to Delhi for holding a dialogue to resolve the border issue with India diplomatically, Rijal said. Pokharel also came under criticism when as the head of the Corona crisis management committee he procured expensive medical supplies from China to fight the disease without following proper procedures. He has been dragged in alleged irregularities in the procurement process.

A political analyst Dinesh Tripathi, meanwhile, said that the Oli government has been a failure in dealing with its neighbours. The government neither took into confidence the northern neighbour (China) nor the southern neighbour (India) and it is being isolated internationally too, he said.

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