Is President Yadav getting ready to sack PM Bhattarai?
Nepal’s “ceremonial president” is gradually getting active, almost assuming the role of dictating the political course to a country governed for too long by an interim constitution and failed political parties. On Thursday, he called a meeting of the four major political parties — the Nepali Congress (NC), the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M) and the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) — and sent them a tough message that their failure to decide the political course will soon leave him with no option but to act.
Consensus has been a much discredited word in Nepal’s politics as these parties that have monopolised the political process have never tired of promising to go by consensus but failed to do so in practice. The failure to deliver the constitution within the promised deadline is just one example. Caretaker Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai insists on continuing till elections in November, but the Election Commission says holding polls is just not possible in the absence of constitutional clarity. There are fears this is a Bhattarai and UCPN-M ploy to hold on to power and rule without accountability. President Ram Baran Yadav is torn between the PM’s (party-backed) “Don’t dare touch me” warning and the NC and UML’s “Sack him” pressure. President Yadav’s invitation to both sides was a message that he has taken cognizance of the prevailing situation, but clearly, he was “unclear” about how to end the deadlock.
Yet, his speeches and warnings to the PM in private meetings that he “should not rule by ordinances” show relations between them are not going to be comfortable in the days to come. Yadav has already rejected two ordinances and given enough hint that he would not sign on the dotted line in future.
Nepal’s interim constitution does not envisage an active president, but at the same time it accords him the status of a “guardian” of the constitution. As a ceremonial head, he may have to sign on the dotted line, but what does a guardian do when the PM and the cabinet become errant and do not honour the constitution? “Even the British practice is clear on that. The monarch can sack the prime minister,” says Surya Dhungel, legal advisor to the president.
Bhattarai is not retreating either. “It is perfectly justified for the government to bring out ordinances when there is no parliament,” he said in his address to the nation on completion of one year in office, an occasion that got the most hostile media review. His credibility that was at its peak when he took over, is arguably at its lowest ebb. His populist streaks have become counter-productive.
Yet, Bhattarai knows non-cooperation from the president would damage him the most, since the NC and the UML do not have the mass appeal or stamina to fight. Besides, these two parties’ blindly following the Maoist agenda for the past six years has harmed their image, credibility and support base.
The UDMF, although as discredited and disunited, however, continues to extend support to the Maoists as “they are the forces of change and support our demand for federalism”. But that support does not bestow legitimacy on the PM’s continuation in power. Moreover, Bhattarai recommended an election the EC says cannot take place. If not checked, he will use the power of ordinance to ensure his continuation even if elections do not take place. Meanwhile, facing public fury, the major parties are contemplating either the revival of the dead House or parliamentary elections once again.
Bhattarai’s intolerance of criticism and his being perceived as an “idealist” in the past, have all gone against him, with no sympathy left for him in any quarter. The president is only waiting for an opportune moment, which may not be far off. But he knows not acting will make him a collaborator, while acting will vindicate what ex-King Gyanendra did a decade ago: sacking a PM who wanted to postpone scheduled elections by a year and continue without accountability. History seems to be coming full circle.
Courtesy ( Indian Express)