Despite numerous efforts of the main opposition party, from the street as well as from within the parliament, to dislodge the current government led by M.K.Nepal, it has completed about eighteen months, seven of them as caretaker. In the current situation of political instability and turmoil, Mr. Nepal seems to have created a record in stretching the longevity of his dispensation, which is likely to remain unbroken for quite some time.
Circumstances remained so favorable in support of the government that it is continuing in office without much observable efforts for continuity from its head or deputy head. Despite wishes of most parliamentarians and people at large to have a new government in place soon, this somewhat nonperforming government dragged on due basically to inter and intra-party wrangling as to which party and who from the party should lead the new government - created favorable situation for it.
It does definitely look unusual for a caretaker government to continue in office for seven odd months but as far as the question of blame sharing is concerned, a major chunk of it should go to those who contributed in making the first phase of prime ministerial elections inconclusive for a prolonged period of time by abstaining, maintaining a position of neutrality and not withdrawing the candidature of a loner in the race even after several rounds of electoral defeats.
These actions of our parties and their leaders were so difficult to be digested by our society that, in addition to the press and civil society, the Supreme Court of the nation, expressed its unhappiness advising chair of the legislative body to make elections conclusive.
Thanks to the unilateral action, following disturbance during unsuccessful attempt to present the annual budget, of Madhav Nepal in proroguing the session of the parliament that facilitated bringing out the budget by ordinance the next day and closure of the tiring election process. Thanks should also be given to the apex court that issued stricture stating that parties cannot remain neutral in prime ministerial election and to Nepali Congress party that decided, after pressure from every corner, to withdraw the candidature of Mr. Poudyal right at the start of the winter session.
Analysts often are tempted to draw an analogy between decision by NC to withdraw their candidate from the race and that of UCPN Maoist not to proceed with their agenda at the special session of the parliament, summoned at their behest, which closed the session without getting into any business. Both the parties, number one and two, were told in clear terms by political parties, on two different occasions, that their proposal would be overwhelmingly defeated should they remain adamant.
Political alignment, however, did not remain the same in that UML and NC joined hands in stopping the Maoists from going ahead with the special session and NC was told by the other two big parties that their candidate would be overwhelmingly defeated should they field the candidate for the seventeenth round.
Most notable development in recent weeks is the signing of the three-point deal between Nepal government (Madhav Nepal) and the Maoist party (Prachanda), which seems to have paved way for UNMIN’s exit, decision to hand over control of the combatants to the special committee and its formalization at a special function organized in Shaktikhor of Chitawan.
Some other positive developments include approval by the parliament of amendments to regulations to conduct prime ministerial election only for three rounds, formation of a task force, consisting of members of big three parties, to formulate integration modalities for Maoist combatants, fixation of the date, starting February 3,for PM election and the big three deciding to engage themselves in talks for consensus government even after the expiry of the extended time given by the President.
Although these talks for unity government ended negatively as expected, talks of political leaders at various levels seem to be heading towards right direction and it could lead to setting of strong, unshakable foundation for preparation of the constitution and reaching the peace process to a positive conclusion.
At the same time, it may not be advisable to ignore other political forces in the country such as Madesh-based parties, although not much numerically, that have demonstrated on several occasions in the past their strength to bring the economy and the nation to a grinding halt.
It is high time that top leaders showed the prudence and guts of controlling the extremists prevalent in each party. With considerable headway made in regard to vital issues facing the nation, commoners would not like to see one issue such as government formation mixed with the paramount task of constitution drafting and reaching the peace process to a rational conclusion.
Nepalese want a new government to be formed soon to kick start the sluggish economy and they also want constitution drafting work to proceed unhindered independent of the composition of the government to be formed and its leader.
Even in case of one among the big three deciding to remain as the major opposition party, people would like to see it providing positive inputs, unlike what has happened so far, towards completion of peace process and preparation of new constitution.
Leaders of political parties may kindly keep at the back of their head that any attempt to make the forthcoming election inconclusive, inventing new techniques, would not be tolerated by people. It may be noted that the slapping of J.N. Khanal, UML chairperson, in Sunsari by a commoner is definitely an unpleasant incident but the fact to be noted is that it is highly symbolic and offers lots of lessons for us to learn.
People cannot have two opinions on the fact that the current dispensation has utterly failed in doing anything about rampant corruption, providing relief to the poorer Nepalese furious at stinging food prices and stirring the stagnant economy.
In addition to persistent high level of inflation, nothing much has been done to correct imbalances in broad economic parameters.
However much people may be critical of the present government, if the current dialogues, emanating from the three-point deal, do not derail, there is an opportunity for Mr. Nepal and his team to walk the exit path with a reasonable level of happiness and pride.
(Dr. Rawal is a CA member and a former governor of the central bank)