The month-long row over who should convene the first meeting of the CA made many of us laugh because this non-issue was blown out of proportion to the utter astonishment of common Nepalese who simply wanted the real work to start without the precious time being wasted unnecessarily. At times it appeared that the sober-looking Regmi, who stuck to the constitutional provision, was at loggerheads with the President who was also not wrong in thinking that he should do the job as is the universal practice. This stalemate finally came to an end when the office of the President wrote a letter asking the government to convene CA.This ended the confusion and the first meeting of the CA was held on January 22, two months after the election.Rules, as provided in the Interim Constitution, prevailed over global practice.
It would be unfair not to mention the hassles that were seen in each party following naming of candidates under the Proportional Representation system, a system introduced to ensure proper representation for the under-represented communities and regions of the country. Such a wonderful system introduced with such a noble objective came under sharp criticism by party leaders/workers even from the same regions and communities. For example, some leaders from the UCPN Maoist threatened to quit the party, accusing the party leadership of promoting opportunists. Equally serious was the situation in NC where division of seats between leaders (Koirala and Deuba) was strongly protested by some leaders on the central committee who went to the extent of writing note of dissent. Serious dissatisfaction surfaced also in UML, following allocation of PR quota, where party cadres padlocked party offices in several districts.RPP-Nepal looked almost divided when a large number of party leaders challenged the decision of Kamal Thapa who nominated 24 people allegedly without taking into confidence the central committee members of the party.Mr. Thapa must be happy that the Election Commission refused to register a new party as requested by some disgruntled leaders and the party is still intact. No exception were the Madesh-based parties, fairing badly in the first-past-the-post system, where leaders and workers resigned, staged sit-in protests at party offices and issued statements condemning their respective leaders. A situation of uneasiness prevailed in each and every party, be it NC that had to name 91 candidates or small parties that had to nominate only one person. Accusations leveled on leaders were the same: money, personal loyalty and blood relations counted more than sacrifice and dedication of party workers. Despite wide spread anger and protests, the decision makers conveniently factored it out because it was seen everywhere. Notwithstanding situation-specific criticism by many of the PR system this time, one should not fail to note that this system encourages inclusiveness, if properly practiced, and should be continued to ensure participation of under-represented people and areas. If money, personal loyalty and connections cease to influence the actions of the concerned, this system is likely to do us good. Probably aware of this, top leaders paid no heed to the grievances and concentrated more on consolidating their positions in their respective parties.
In each major party, top leaders are seemingly engaged in a battle to grab the position of the leader of the parliamentary party, a position guarantying premiership for the person sitting on it should the party in question get a chance to lead the government. There are about four contenders in UML, which is likely to take some more days of intense work to elect/select a leader for the post.UCPN Maoist has just touched upon the subject but does not look in a hurry to do so probably because they know their chances of leading the government in the near future are remote and have more important issues to thrash out after the recent electoral debacle. It is almost certain that Maoist strong man Prachanda will be unanimously chosen leader of the parliamentary party, despite noises made to the contrary by his two deputies Bhattari and Shrestha. It is natural that distinct noises on this issue are heard in NC and UML more than any other party.Madesh-based parties have not even touched upon this issue because their leaders are currently leaking their electoral wounds and some have begun attempts to consolidate and strengthen their position through merger of parties. One more group is reported to be endeavouring to create a front. They can hope to regain some of the gone fame and popularity, mostly lost during the four years tenure of the earlier CA, if they can convince people that their present efforts, unlike before, are not for power and perks. Expectedly, NC, the largest party supposed to lead the government, was the first party to start debate on finding a consensus candidate for the post of its parliamentary party leader. Consensus looked difficult right from the beginning because the three senior most leaders (Koirala,Deuba and Poudel)were vying for the post with their own points and arguments to justify why they needed it. After lengthy discussions and negotiations, Poudyal agreed to support Koirala but an unhappy Deuba, annoyed that Koirala did not agree to make him acting president of the party as long as party president remains in government, contested and lost by a difference of just 16 votes. If something very unusual does not happen and leaders do not backtrack on their post election offers made to Koirala as the president of the largest party, NC chair is likely to become the next prime minister to carry on the twin task of promulgating the new constitution and reviving the lackluster performance of the thus far ignored economy.
Top leaders may kindly remember that people want the consensus government to be in place in the time given, as per the constitution, by the President. It is encouraging that NC has officially sought UML’s cooperation to form a consensus government and both the parties have decided to proceed positively to meet the deadline of February 2. Leaders may kindly remember that people have no problem about power sharing deal between parties but the point to be noted is that they do not want leaders to expend too much time protecting and furthering their individual and party interests, which could delay formation of a stable government and timely delivery of the new constitution. Hope NC president Koirala, with an untarnished image, gets a chance to initiate actions to prepare the constitution and also pay some attention to the economy that is characterized by unprecedented trade gap (RS.2.25 trillion in the 5 months of this fiscal), huge unspent government reserves (Rs. 78 billion), excess liquidity with commercial banks due to poor credit off take, high inflation and overall unsatisfactory investment environment. It may be mentioned that Nepal’s economic freedom score fell by 0.3 points to 50.1 this year due to our failure to cut corruption, changes in labour laws and ensure investment freedom. In South Asia, we have fallen to the bottommost position in 2014.The lucky lot of retired secretaries under Chief Justice Regmi, however, need not worry much about these disappointing indicators because they cannot be solely blamed for these and people should be happy that they are walking out without inflicting additional serious injury on the ailing economy.Regmi and his team should be happy and thankful to the internal, with the exception of Baidya-led Maoists, and external forces that created a conducive environment for the successful holding of November 19 polls. Host of retired secretaries (about 2 dozens) who could not be picked for the ministerial positions, some made to wait till the last moment, must be feeling bad that they could not be fortunate enough to be a party to running the show at such a wonderful time and get credit that the current lucky team so much deserves. Good fortune can befall the left out retirees because there are vacancies both within and outside of Nepal, which the Regmi team may not try hard to grab.