The Naxalbari movement in West Bengal in the late sixties and early seventies, had a spill over effect across the international border. Inspired by it, a group of young communists in Nepal killed seven ‘class enemies’ in Jhapa district to mark the beginning of a revolution that they thought would upstage the monarchy, transform Nepal into a red-radical bastion and establish one party communist rule.
The organization and its dreams, however, were crushed by the ruling royal regime and most of its leaders were arrested soon after. K P Oli, then 22, was among those arrested. He was released from jail 14 years later as King Birendra considered liberalising the regime.
Oli had changed by then, mellowed down and chosen to associate himself with the more pragmatic communist group that was functioning as a clandestine outfit. In 1990 , he was one of the key second generation leaders of a united Communist Party that had decided to work under the leadership of the Nepali Congress, in the movement for restoration of democracy. With its success, Nepal became a constitutional monarchy and multi-party democracy.
With a long and tedious process for election of the PM now underway in Nepal, Oli has emerged as the front-runner for the Prime Minister’s post with a majority of the 601 members in the House, on his side.
Oli came to lead the party after series of accidents and the elimination of senior leaders largely due to their poor performance. Its most charismatic leader Madan Bhandari died in a mysterious road accident in 1992, its most venerable leader and the first communist Prime Minister Man Mohan Adhikari died in 1996, its two party chiefs –Madhav Nepal and Jhalnath Khanal – left the leadership position without expanding the party’s base.
Oli took over as party chairman three years ago, and was able to establish the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist as the second largest in Parliament.
A man known for his acerbic tongue, and deriding his political rivals, Oli is liked or hated for telling the truth as he sees it. He was branded as ‘pro-India’ for awarding the ambitious Mahakali Hydro Project to India that led to a split within his own party.
Now he is seen as anti-Indian after he refused to accept some informal suggestions by India on province formation and Madhesi rights. He is also the loudest voice opposing the ‘undeclared blockade’ launched by India on Nepal after the promulgation of the Constitution on September 20.