Twists and Turns in Politics

External sector of our economy is on decline, with imports of goods and services totaling Rs.388billion and exports totallingRs.24.58 billion during the four months of this fiscal year. Equally disappointing is the fact that capital expenditure is le

Jan. 7, 2017, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.10, No.10, January 06,2017 Poush 22,2073

Hail bent on not letting the Parliament proceed with the work on the amendment bill, CPN-UML is obstructing House proceedings since November 29.Altough violent protests against the bill in areas like Butuwal and Gulmi have stopped, nine opposition parties led by UML have not given up the idea of agitation against registration of the proposal in the Parliament. These parties have different plans and strategies to protest the bill and express solidarity with the people of Province 5. Despite request of ruling parties not to obstruct proceedings and vote on the bill, UML has not budged an inch and claims that the proposal is divisive and thus anti national. Leaders like Prachanda and Oli are often heard hurling insults and accusations at each other and meetings of top leaders organized to find solutions have been inconclusive and unruly at times. Thanks God, they have so far not decided not to meet. President Bhandari has shown concern and Speaker Onsari’s repeated attempts at breaking the deadlock could not produce any positive result. There was pressure on the NC leadership to put the constitution amendment bill on hold and announce date for the local election, which looked supportive of the stance taken by the main opposition.  NC seemed ready to put the bill on hold so that House proceedings could commence to endorse the election-related bills so as to have three layers of election within thirteen months from now. While UML looks always positive about getting election-related matters approved by the Parliament without touching upon the amendment proposal, Madhes-centric parties want work on the amendment proposal before anything else. Despite recurring noise from the camp,however,It looked like approval of the bill with little changes here and there could satisfy most of the disgruntled leaders who must have minutely felt their own pulses by now. In the mean while, Prachanda also looked a bit inclined to put the proposal on hold to expedite election-related work, fully knowing that arriving at a feasible solution would be very difficult without factoring in Madhesi sentiments. It may be noted Madhesh-centric parties are not that demanding currently but it would, however, be foolish to think that they could be brought on board the election without addressing some issues. It looks like more than NC and the Maoist Center, UML and Madhesh-centric parties have to show the required level of flexibility to arrive at a solution. Of the three major parties(NC,UML and Maoist Centre), NC appears to be more flexible in that it has agreed in principle with the other two parties to have polls under the new structure, despite earlier suggestion by NC president Deuba that polls be held under the existing structure. The idea to have all three levels (local, provincial and parliamentary) by mid-December is a good one and can be executed provided the United Democratic Madheshi Front decides to cooperate, which currently looks difficult. It is now more or less clear that the three major parties are ready to do the needful for the elections at three different levels in the next couple of months but it would be unwise to hope that Madhesh-based parties will let the House concentrate on issues excluding their own.  Inter and intra- party differences on major issues are confusing.

Some influential Maoist leaders are against the segregation of hilly districts from Province 5 as provisioned in the amendment proposal and have openly supported district-specific protest programs against it. The largest party NC too has a number of leaders against this proposal.NC general secretary (Dr. Sashanka) has been on record more than once stating that the proposal was not discussed with them before its clearance by the leadership. After seeing the mass uprising in areas like Butwal, he concluded that feelings and sentiments of people there should not be ignored. On the issue of religion, he seems to have sided with those wanting Nepal to be declared a Hindu state and wants it to be put to referendum in due course of time. Indeed, constitution of a country can be amended and even scrapped, if people so decide, and there is no reason why parliamentary proceedings should come to a standstill on account of an issue or two. Leaders may wish to let parliamentary work proceed with the understanding that irresolvable issues would be put to test over time. K.P. Oli, UML chair, cannot ignore for long suggestion of some of his associates that continuous obstruction of House would not do him and his party any good and whatever political capital the party may have made thus far would not take much time to evaporate. Warning and suggestions could not make any positive impact as far as change in stance of political parties is concerned because leaders seemed to be  heading from opposite directions for a head on  collusion. Time is really right to get somewhat exhausted Madheshi leaders around the table to clear the political impasse. It may be remembered that little before and some days after the registration of the amendment bill, leaders like Upendra Yadav, the most noted politician of Madhesh, were adamant about not supporting the proposal on changes to provincial boundaries. Things have changed now.

Prevailing situation warrants constructive intervention by leaders especially in the backdrop of the recent verdict of the Supreme Court, which has provided a solution that our parties in feud could not even conceive of one. With the balanced verdict of the court made public,Oli will have to let the parliamentary proceedings resume and the duo(Deuba and Prachanda) drop the idea of redrawing federal boundaries for now. It is the time for leaders to play a constructive and positive role.  Having developed some kind of understanding with Front leaders and having had several rounds of meaningful political dialogue with Upendra Yadav, Dr.Baburam Bhattari could play a positive role in clearing the knotted up politics of Nepal. Likewise, Kamal Thapa, chair RPP, could contribute on this front, instead of continuously accusing the three major parties and flip-flopping on constitutional issues. It would not be unwise to expect him to work in close cooperation with other accommodative parties, temporarily putting aside RPP’s own rapidly emerging post-merger problems and sharp division within it on the issue of monarchy.

In the midst of lots of noise made by politicians, King (ex) Gyanendra broke his long maintained silence through a statement in which he observed that national unity was under attack and division between the communities from Terai, hills and mountains was growing. The statement issued contained nothing different from what is often said by our leaders. Our politicians, however, were so much alarmed by it that it was discussed seriously in the cabinet where Prime Minister Dahal urged everyone not to take those observations lightly. More furious remarks came from deputy prime minister Nidhi who went to the extent of suggesting that the case of the 2001 royal massacre could be reopened, if need be. Is Nidhi trying to say that they had closed the massacre-related file on the condition\understanding that the monarch would remain quiet for good on matters related to state affairs? Observers find themselves perplexed, failing to understand what message he wanted to convey. Leaders (specifically Oli and Prachanda) must have spoken sacks full of words by now on points also touched upon by the monarch. People have, therefore, not taken their remarks seriously. Very surprising, however, was to hear Dr. Bhattari, who has vowed to change the face of this country economically, talking about the statement in the same fashion and manner that Oli and Prachanda did. Let us not forget that ex king Gyanendra Shah has every right to speak on national issues at least as an educated senior citizen of the country, if not as the descendent \representative of the great unifier of this nation- late King Prithivi Narayan Shah. Bhattari is expected by people to play a constructive role in clearing the deadlock and pave way for politicians to think about our sick economy.

External sector of our economy is on decline, with imports of goods and services totaling Rs.388billion and exports totallingRs.24.58 billion during the four months of this fiscal year. Equally disappointing is the fact that capital expenditure is less than 8 percent, even after five months of budget execution and only 2 percent of budget set aside for earthquake-related reconstruction has been spent. Inflation, however, has moderated down to 4.8 percent, following a sharp increase in prices last fiscal year due to prolonged Madhesh unrest and unofficial blockade. End of unrest, smooth resumption of trade and normalcy in the supplies could have contributed to this moderation of inflation. One cannot, however, brush aside comments that prices are still too high because instead of coming down they registered an increase of 4.8 percent over the ones that prevailed during the abnormal period. Since this deceleration has not harmed anyone, it is better not to be critical about it and be ready to share with happiness   good news about paddy production, which has increased by 21.66 percent over that of last year to reach 5.23 million tones. Timely rain and relatively satisfactory supply of chemical fertilizers is said to have contributed to this increase. Efforts will have to be made to see that this increase in production continues in future also so that our agricultural country does not have to rely on rice imports to feed its population. If concerted efforts are made, self sufficiency in chicken, eggs and fish could be achieved in near future.

Those concerned about rapid economic progress should also pay serious attention to the Government of India’s new guidelines on cross-border electricity trading which appear detrimental to flow of foreign capital, other than Indian, to harness vast hydro power potential of this nation. Many here find some conditions in stark contrast to the provision laid in the Power Trade Agreement signed by two countries in October 2014, which allows non-discriminatory access to the cross-border interconnections. If the concerned authorities here equip themselves with sound logic and facts before sitting around the table, there is no reason why our friends in India cannot be talked into relaxing some of the difficult provisions because they know it is in the best interest of energy-hungry India to help Nepal generate maximum water-based power. Let us hope that break of some days announced by madam Onsari after the court ruling helps leaders engage in a conclusive dialogue because the need of the time is to put on track the badly knotted up politics of Nepal, which has exacted heavy toll on the economy.

Dr. Tilak Rawal

Dr. Tilak Rawal

Dr. Rawal is former governor of NRB.

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