Nepali Times Asian Paints
One hundred days with Nepal


The government of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal turned 100 days on Wednesday. These have not been the easiest 100 days for Nepal, neither the PM nor the country.

Nepal was elected unopposed by the CA a year after embarrassing defeats in elections in two constituencies, Kathmandu and Rautahat. Critics said this would discredit the CA elections. "We selected the person who was rejected by the people as the leader of the country, what do you expect?" a disenchanted young activist asked.

Nepal has become the butt of many jokes. So desperate is he to fulfill his life-long dream to be Nepal's PM that he will sign anything, they say. The Maoists obstructed house proceedings, hurled insults and finally stepped down to start street agitations and boycott the PM's functions.

Most urban moderates, who secretly believed that Nepal was not at all qualified for the position, decided to keep mum, so relieved were they that the Maoists had been ousted. Others just didn't care as they knew that no matter who is in power things won't really change.

When MKN became PM there was no euphoria or celebration, just a lot of cynicism. Those who voted against veteran leaders like Nepal were angry and unhappy that the achievements made since the end of the 'people's war' were all going to go to waste. With such low expectations, the Nepal government didn't have much to prove.

Yet the UML-led government has been surprisingly resilient. It appears more confident after the PM's Delhi visit, and the Maoists are scratching their heads about how to wiggle back into government. But the government got by with doing absolutely nothing on the development front for the first 100 days. It can't afford to now. If there is one thing that will give Nepal legitimacy and moral authority, it is a perception that he means business.

The challenges are daunting: the peace process must be kept on track, the constitution must be written, the security situation must be improved, inflation controlled, food supply ensured and the two armies have to be integrated.

It would not be fair to say that the government has done nothing right. The appointment of the chair to the constitutional committee, the formation of a special committee on army integration, the appointment of secretaries in various ministries and the start of a special security plan to deal with the deteriorating security condition were all done by the book.

All this, despite having to firefight over crises like the VP's oath row, the flak over the cholera epidemic, the decisions over priests in Pashupatinath. Nilambar Acharya, the new chair of the constitutional committee, said this week that it is still possible to write the constitution in the next nine months if everyone works hard and stays focused on the goals. All the parties had better listen to him.

The leaders of this government must also remember that while the overall goals of the country are broad, there are certain areas in Nepal that need special attention. The families in the far west whose sole bread-winners died of cholera don't really care about the new constitution. The people in the mid-west want food, clean drinking water, medication and relief that proves to them that they are not alone and the state actually does care about its people.

Nepalis grew tired of the political bickering a long time ago. We may write the constitution on time, but if we can't even deliver basic services and show the presence of the state in the countryside, the people are going to get even more disillusioned. And this will benefit only the extremists.

There has always been the fear that the constitution may not be written on time and this government has done nothing to allay it. In fact with its inability to act or make difficult decisions, it has proven its critics right?that it is unreasonable to expect anything from this government.

But it is still not too late. Nepal's team faces rough days ahead, and those days may be numbered if the Maoists decide to pull the rug from under it after Dasain. But the government must stay true to the commitments of an inclusive new Nepal, show with its work that it is serious about the people. Nepalis want action, not more speeches. It's not enough for Nepal to stay on in government by the skin of his teeth.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)