Chief whip of Nepali Congress LAXMAN PRASAD GHIMIRE is known for his blunt and straight political comments. Former water resource minister, Ghimire was elected from Ramechhap in the first parliamentary elections in 1992. As the country heads towards a new round of political confrontation following the reshuffle of the cabinet by Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal, Nepali Congress leader Ghimire spoke to NEW SPOTLIGHT on various issues. Excerpts:
Following the reshuffle of the cabinet by Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal, how do you see the political process now?
It is a very unfortunate decision for the country. Prime Minister Khanal’s decision invited political confrontation. To help internal patch-up in UCPN-Maoist, Khanal inducted Maoist ministers in thecabinet, completely ignoring the main opposition party. At a time when the country requires consensus and compromise to write the new constitution and conclude the peace process, Prime Minister Khanal’sstep virtually stops all the doors of negotiation. This is an absolute nonsense.
Do you think any tangible progress in constitution making and peace process will be possible now?
Had the government been really sincere to the peace process and constitution, the prime minister would not have reshuffled the cabinet. This decision indicated that Prime Minister Khanal and his coalition party, UCPN-Maoist, are not sincere to the cause.
What will be the position of Nepali Congress now?
Nepali Congress will continue to obstruct the proceedings of the House. We will not allow it to function until the resignation of the prime minister. This is our bottom line. There is no question to backtrack on our agenda.
Don’t you think it is the prerogative of the prime minister to reshuffle his cabinet?
Following the signing of the five-point agreement by announcing to resign, Jhalnathji has been rendered into a lame duck prime minister. He should have tendered his resignation two months ago. In this context, his decision to reshuffle the cabinet is merely a joke. I don’t understand on what grounds can a prime minister whose resignation was endorsed by the Legislature Parliament reshuffle the cabinet? This is an untimely dance.
This means Nepali Congress is now heading towards confrontational politics?
We are pushed to confrontational politics by the present government. We still want consensus in constitution making. Prime Minister Khanal and UCPN-Maoist leader have betrayed peaceful politics. Of course, the present cabinet reshuffle may settle the internal politics of Maoists but this will invite grave consequences in the country.
How do you justify your party’s step to obstruct the House when there is the need to discuss the annual budget?
We have been playing the very role of a responsible opposition party. We have allowed the government to present its annual program and even supported it pass the bill allowing the government to spend partial money. We have shown a maximum restraint despite the work of the government. However, the government and ruling parties take our sincere commitment as a weakness.
How do you read the prime minister’s recent action?
His message is clear as he wants confrontation with main opposition party Nepali Congress. Otherwise, no sane people can take such a decision at this crucial juncture when the tenure of extended Constituent Assembly is just over five weeks.
Despite the opposition from Nepali Congress and a strong section of his own party, what compelled the prime minister to take this decision?
Only one reason is to woo the Maoist leaders. This reshuffle has settled the long standing internal disputes in the UCPN-Maoist. No one will be pleased by the reshuffle except the few Maoist leaders.
Prime Minister Khanal and his close associates have been saying that this step is necessary to bring the constitutional writing and peace process on the right track. What do you say?
This is all bogus and nonsense. All know that nothing has been done in the last two months to conclude the peace process and write the constitution. It is very unfortunate.
Prime Minister Khanal has said it is his moral and political obligation to resign in 13 days in case there is no tangible progress in the peace process?
Is there any sense to tender the resignation by August 31 when the tenure of the Constituent Assembly will expire? This is just a political game plan in which prime minister Khanal has turned himself as a pawn of UCPN-Maoist, which wants to capture the power. After reshuffling the cabinet, Khanal gave up all political and moral obligations. This is purely a communist propaganda. Prime Minister Khanal is a liar, and is immoral.
Do you see any possibility of the new constitution being promulgated by August 31?
If Maoist leadership and Jhalanath Khanal come with tangible programs,we still can make a difference. Our experiences with Maoists remains bitter as they always express commitments in words but they always avoid their implementation. We want to see the implementation of the programs. We are fed up with verbal commitments.
Don’t you think your party is also responsible for the present political mess?
One of the main mistakes of Nepali Congress was that it agreed to hold the elections of the Constituent Assembly without completing the integration of Maoist combatants. Had Maoist combatants been integrated before the elections, Nepal would not have to face the present situation. As a politician, I should say this is our blunder.