A Disquieting Path

The two parties in power will have to make sure that every decision taken on such issues will have to be made taking into confidence the opposition and all others concerned because the path ahead is still bumpy and needs patience and skill to negotia

Aug. 11, 2016, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol 10, No.2,August 12,2016,(Shrawan,28,2073)

Expectedly, the decision by Prachanda to break his understanding with Deuba to dislodge the Oli-led government turned out to be very temporary. After walking out on NC president, Parchanda hurriedly signed a nine-point deal on May 5, 2016 with Oli’s party to give continuity to the Oli-led dispensation, fully confident that power would be handed over to him after endorsement of the budget by the legislature parliament. It took Parchanda just couple of weeks to conclude that Prime Minister was not acting in accordance with the stipulations in the deal and the so called gentleman’s agreement over transfer of power. Approaching and reaching an understanding with Nepali Congress was not a big deal because for them it was just a question of rolling out red carpet one more time to get the Maoist leader in to ink a deal. The withdrawal of support was followed by registration of no-confidence motion against Oli.The Sanghiya Gathabandhan,an alliance of the Madhes-based parties and Janajati forces, decided to vote in favour of the motion. So was the decision of a coalition partner led by Gachhadar.Contrary to the expectation of many, Kamal Thapa stayed on with Oli as his sincere deputy till the end?

Despite being reduced to a minority, an adamant-looking Oli did not heed the urging of Deuba and Parchanda to resign and cautioned them not to choose the path of confrontation. His boldness and urging that the two leaders should withdraw the motion made many of us believe that he was not going to easily quit the chair to facilitate formation of a new government. Moreover, he had the backing of a section of lawyers of this country who advised that no new government could be formed as per Article 298 of the constitution without amendment of it or a parliamentary resolution or through invocation of the provision removing constitutional hurdles. Lawyers on the other side of the fence, however, advised the duo(Deuba and Parchanda) that there was no problem in forming a new government as per Article 298 and existing parliamentary rules.Likewise,two  former finance secretaries were seen differing on taxation issues when three bills related to the budget failed to get House clearance: one saying that there was no problem in collecting taxes as per the new provision at a time when the Legislature-Parliament had already cleared the Appropriation Bill and there was Tax Recovery Act 2012 to facilitate tax collection for sometime as per the new arrangement,whil the other insisting that the revenue collected in the changed context should be refunded as three bills including the Finance Bill have been rejected. Looking at the divergent views of our experts specializing in different areas, one could easily conclude that the inputs provided by them had a lot to do with their leaning, affiliation and to a certain extent ideology. Have we done away with our professional honesty and integrity?

Contrary to the expectation of many, Oli decided not to linger on, mainly after the rejection of subsidiary bills, and quietly handed over his resignation to the President some twenty-four hours before he made the formal announcement in the Parliament. He also made necessary arrangements to invoke Article 305 to remove difficulties to pave way for formation of a new government. These acts of Oli at the end of his tenure helped make some political capital for himself and his party and also helped arrest further erosion in the character and image of people like Gacchadar who had formally decided to vote against the government of which he was the senior most deputy prime minister.Dahal had no challenger on Wednesday’s(August2,2016) election as UML had decided to remain in opposition without fielding a candidate.Nepali Congress, Maoist Center,Madhes-centric parties and some others voted for him to obtain 363 votes as against 210 votes of UML,RPP-Nepal and some others. It may be noted that the new alliance is 34 votes short of two-third majority required for constitution amendment. The alliance will have to strive to reach the figure because the NC and the Center have agreed, in principle, to find a political solution to the Tarai crisis in exchange for support of the Sanghiya Gathabandhan in the government formation process. It may be recalled that the Gathabandhan voted for Dahal following a three-point agreement with the two parties, which specifies that the demands will be addressed through constitution amendment requiring two-third majority.

Intra and inter-party wrangling do happen little before and during governments formation and the current process could not be an exception in that squabbles, both within the Maoist Center and the NC, have started coming to the fore.Shekhar Koirala and Arjun Narasingh KC were poised to join government with deputy prime minister Nidhi and minister Lekhak but they decided not to when informed that they would not be given the ministries of their choice.Likewise,Janardan Sharma of the Maoist Centre, aspiring to become deputy prime minister, refused to join the government as a minister below Krishna Mahara who was made deputy prime minister representing the Centre. These wrangling are said to have delayed oath taking ceremony of Dahal by forty minutes. The dignitaries present, including heads of mission, had to wait for the ministers to arrive. Anyway, let us be happy that there is a government in place, which besides doing the needful to fill vacancies in the Cabinet, which got three more ministers recently, will have to intelligently chart its course of action so that issues facing the nation can be amicably resolved and prevailing confusion cleared.

Parliament has rejected three budget-related subsidiary bills, making people wonder what will happen to the budget and more specifically to the failed subsidiary bills. The situation before us is a unique one because never before had budget-related bills been rejected after the endorsement of the Appropriation Bill. Minor changes would not be offending but any attempt at redoing the budget would lead this government to a head on collusion with UML in the Parliament, which people do not want. Best thing to do would be to pass the failed bills with minor changes and proceed with budget implementation.

The two partners (NC and Maoist) have agreed on a tentative plan to hold local polls by February/March, after taking the agitating parties into confidence. It is important that on such an issue the two parties take not only Gathabandhan into confidence but UML which had, while in government, decided to hold local polls by the end of the year 2016.With Gathabandhan asking the local body restructuring commission to stop its work until contentious issues of the constitution are resolved and some election-related preparatory works  yet to be completed, timeline indicated by the two parties is not unrealistic and the opposition should have no problem agreeing to their proposal of organizing polls little later, if approached decently. A reasonable level of understanding between the major political players of this country is a must to hold three-tier polls in the next eighteen months, which currently looks very difficult. The two parties in power will have to make sure that the three- point agreement signed is implemented without hurting the sentiments of watchful Oli.Since Prachanda has already made some decisions towards implementation of the deal, it should not be too difficult to talk some of the agitating leaders into his cabinet. It is heartening that the related decisions of the new government have been taken positively by leaders like Upendra Yadav.Increased efforts will have to be made now to bring on board some leaders from the agitating Morcha, which, however, is facing increasing criticism over its plan to join the government after the registration of a constitution amendment proposal in Parliament. Many in Morcha feel that they should join the government only after the endorsement of the amendment by the Parliament because many deals signed in the past have remained unimplemented.Cheques written in the past could not be cashed, according to them. While it would be unwise to expect Morcha to meaningfully cooperate without settlement of issues raised by them,Morcha leaders should not at all think about violent agitation because sick and tired people ofNepal,irrespective of their location, are not going to cooperate with them in turning the already unstable situation further complex and chaotic. It is good that Prime Minister has directed all the secretaries  to carry out result-oriented work, implement the new constitution, effectively conclude the remaining tasks of the peace process and expedite works in earthquake-hit areas .Dahal and Deuba will have to be careful that only what is a must should be changed  as far as redoing decisions of Oli-led government is concerned.Oli-led UML is bound to be carefully watching activities/decisions of this government, specifically related to earlier decisions made by it. At the same time, UML should also not forget that people expect the second largest party and its leader Oli, who seems to have attained new height lately, to genuinely cooperate with the other concerned in serious issues of national importance. The two parties in power will have to make sure that every decision taken on such issues will have to be made taking into confidence the opposition and all others concerned because the path ahead is still bumpy and needs patience and skill to negotiate it. People have also begun to pay attention to Baburam Bhattari’s repeated observations that the nation will have to go for directly elected presidential system of governance.Interestingly,UML leaders like J N Khanal have also begun to express similar views The major responsibility of paying serious attention to the major concerns circulating lies on the shoulders of Deuba and Prachanda who have decided to run the government for nine months each, covering the eighteen months tenure of the Legislature Parliament. Failure to handle complicated issues sensibly could lead all of us down a further disquieting path.

Dr. Tilak Rawal

Dr. Tilak Rawal

Dr. Rawal is former governor of NRB.

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