For a man who was preparing to be PM for so long, Jhala Nath Khanal has got off to a disappointing start. Fifty days after being elected, he doesn't have a full cabinet. The promised progress in the peace process is yet to be seen. He has not been able to build the broad-based consensus with NC and Madhesi parties that he will eventually need to make progress on constitutional issues. His rivals within the party may be quiet for now, but by not reaching out to them, he will end up strengthening the constituency in UML that fears that the party is about to be swallowed by the Maoists. And most importantly, one does not sense any urgency in the PMO about the grave political challenges the government will inevitably face.
Having said that, it would be a mistake to underestimate what this government, and the alliance, is capable of achieving if it musters the political will.
The first few weeks of government formation are always the most difficult. This is when positions are most rigid, leaders stake claims to ministerial portfolios, coalition partners have to be managed, and debts paid for past support. Remember how long it took Madhav Nepal to form a cabinet, and that was done in installments too. That is because politicians know that once the cabinet takes shape, it will be difficult to gain entry into the power structure and this is the moment to strike. A similar tussle can be witnessed within UML and the Maoists. MJF's decision was delayed because Upendra Yadav was working hard to ensure the party didn't split if they joined the government.
But the PM's real priorities must lie in political management and showing progress on the peace and constitution front. The Special Committee meeting on Wednesday was a positive step, with the secretariat being provided with human resources for monitoring purposes Ė though those at the forefront of throwing out UNMIN should reflect on who has benefitted the most through the virtual absence of monitoring since. On integration and rehabilitation, the key question remains: have the Maoists made a strategic decision to move ahead with the process or not? There are conflicting versions, but they appear more amenable to taking tangible steps regarding the re-grouping of combatants, which will potentially lock them into a process if it is accompanied by a broader deal on modalities and numbers.
The Maoists really have no excuses anymore, and obstructing progress while in power will erode their credibility drastically and not earn them much goodwill with combatants either. At the same time, there are many in NC who believe that the success of this alliance will marginalise them. This school, which has been traditionally skeptical of integration, will be tempted to veto any proposal on the table, and paint it in terms of Maoist 'state capture'. Unlike his president Sushil Koirala, who has no concept of give-and-take in politics, Ram Sharan Mahat Ė NC's key man on integration Ė is a smart man. He is a tough negotiator, but should recognise the costs of not reciprocating if the Maoists show willingness to move ahead. Integration into security forces is one model, but a mixed force where the Maoists do not have command and there are adequate checks could well be thought through and not necessarily dismissed just because it was in the 7-point deal.
There is a visible energy on the constitution-writing front. The sub-committee has made progress, especially on the judiciary and legislature. The Constitutional Committee has begun work on the state restructuring report, although a consensus will be difficult. There was suspicion that the Maoists want to promulgate a draft constitution in order to eliminate the role of the president in the transitional period and then consolidate power. But the sub-committee's decision this week to have the president continue in office until the next election as part of the transitional arrangements should allay those apprehensions. The Maoists are in a hurry, and are willing to come down from their stated positions, since Dahal knows demonstrated progress will make CA extension easier, and help him claim leadership of government post-28 May.
Obviously forces exist that will want to discredit this government. But as long as Dahal and Khanal work closely together, keep their ambitions in check, manage internal contradictions, work on integration and the constitution by taking NC on board, address Madhesi issues, and not act against India's security interests (which includes not behaving irresponsibly, for instance by showing black flags to the Indian envoy), these forces will not be able to destabilise the alliance. It has not been a good start, but all is not lost for the government yet.
1. who cares
the best column from PJ till date, but lacks powerful punch.¬†
improvement in analytical capability.¬†
the positive for this govt. is there is no madeshi or koirala which is keeping this govt. away from major corruption, controversy till date but the threats are the presence of maoist and bam dev- criminal activities, corruption, loot,¬†threat¬†to public from those in the govt..
a few days ago, bam said that how could that corrupt MP, who took bribe in order to sell a police job, be in a position to get someone job in police...... .... of course he was since he was the agent of bam. his job was to take bribe and bam's was to work with his connection in the police........ that is how he has been¬†monopolizing¬†his position, taking protection money from criminals...
25 MARCH 2011 | 6:41 PM NST
Something is funny about the last paragraph here. You suggest that there are forces "looking to destabilise the alliance". May I ask which forces?
You started off by saying that Jhala Nath Khanal has been waiting for a long time to become the Prime Minister. Was he not a part of the forces that sought to destabilise the MK Nepal government, which was also an alliance?
You also suggest that the two communist parties should take NC on board and form an alliance of the largest three. But they have all been sabotaging each other over the past five years, and were the very forces that sought to destabilise each other. What will change and who will remain to challenge them?
I guess you are whispering that these forces means India, but¬†weren't¬†they the ones who actually underpinned the current arrangement, why would they wish to discredit it?
25 MARCH 2011 | 7:26 PM NST
What is also intriguing, at least to me, is the conditions which you believe are necessary to achieve the objective of not just writing the constitution and concluding the peace process, but also to ensure that the government does not continue on the same note that it has started, badly.
If it could¬†merely be¬†ensuredthat:
A)¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Politicians (D&K) could keep their ambition in check
B)¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Manage internal contradictions
C)¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Take their (perceived) enemy on board (in a display of good faith)
D)¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† And, that Maoist would not act against India's security ¬†interests
Then why have they been the exact opposite of all of that throughout the past years. In any case, how is any of it related to writing the constitution and concluding peace which requires the CA and not the government?
Are you implying that all of these meetings about resolving issues that have been going on for well a year ago, since the time of Koirala, are just a charade?¬†
I know you have always implied just that, but then accepting that would change the nature of analysis and force a different conclusion than you currently have.
25 MARCH 2011 | 7:36 PM NST
The advices given in the last paragraph are nothing new. Follow them and you might see Nepal become Switzerland overnight! And showing ambassador, who speaks more than what's required of a diplomat, ¬†black flags is against India's security interest, how? Last time I checked, India was encroaching Nepali land and the SSB forces were subjecting Nepali nationals to illegal searches or brutal attacks, and your favorite Madhesi parties were mute in either cases. That is against Nepal's security interests.
27 MARCH 2011 | 5:32 AM NST
5. Mahesh "address Madhesi issues, and not act against India's security interests"..
Madhesi issue??I am sorry what issue is that, One madesh one Pradesh?, so that Indians can cash in our resources for dirt cheap price through Gachhadar styled puppets in madesh who was advocating economic blockade in Nepal to topple this government? Otherwise, most of the genuine demands have already been adressed or can be resolved from CA.
And I am not getting this India's security interests from quite a long now. Was that its interest in killing Nepali Jamim Shahs and other Shahs ¬†in broad day light through contract killers sponsored directly from ¬†Indian embassy? Or is that about allowing tibetans to come to Nepal, so that India can get at least something worth speaking against China and show it to their masters in West?.With the issues of Bhutanese refugees, Meghaland issue, ¬†SSB forces terrorizing Nepali nationals in border, with the involvement of Indians in most of the cases of vandalism, terror and drug related issues in Nepal, I see the security problem to Nepal from India and not the otherway round!¬†
27 MARCH 2011 | 9:34 AM NST
Democracy will only work in Nepal, if majority of the people are educated¬†can think rationally. Other wise, it is easy for the politicians to take the public for a ride in the name of ethnicity, party ideology etc¬†while serving their own personal ambitions.
28 MARCH 2011 | 7:41 AM NST
7. jange 6. Raghu
Democracy will only work in Nepal, if majority of the people are educated can think rationally.
I would say that the majority of the people of Nepal are educated. They may not be literate but that hardly means that they are not educated.
I do hope you are not confusing literacy with education. There is more to education than literacy.√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺ
And as for thinking rationally,√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺ I have met more literate people who cannot think rationally than illiterate people who cannot do so.
28 MARCH 2011 | 3:18 PM NST
Buddy! You're cool huh! Maybe these contradictions are a bit objective. To the point: These are obvious¬†manifestation¬†of personalities we have. We don't only lack courage to¬†muster¬†the kickstart¬†the real prospect ahead of us.¬†
I think we're having some optimistic points. For example, these days corrupts are held suspect, and at least tried to be cuffed. There are so many, and we need to catch them all in their collars.
Journalism has¬†become¬†a bit¬†feisty: We have many tabloids, dailies, each competing the other. They are in many ways co-operating and trying to be best,¬†something¬†that parallels Nietzsche's Superman.
People are getting educated in real terms. As they read more newspapers, learn more¬†English¬†phrases and become¬†imitators, that's positive point.
We've realized our own mistakes. We're still behind in learning, but each citizen is aware of many international issues these days.
We've nice many columnists. And dailies like Naya Patrika, Republica and Nagarik have¬†cheer-led the real momentum of time, to track some BIGS in values and purpose of journalism.¬†
28 MARCH 2011 | 4:29 PM NST
I mean exactly what we said.
-Why do¬†we elect the same criminals and corrupt people over and over again?
-Why do we stay silent even when someone who has lost election becomes Prime Minister?
-Why do¬†we let them embezzle the state fund when it could have been used for development projects?
-Why do we curse them behind closed doors or PC yet we welcome them with flowers when they come to our constituecy?
.....The list goes on and on....
29 MARCH 2011 | 12:02 PM NST
Yes, we must turn adrift in our¬†weakness, because we populace are so much backstepped as to dissonate¬†¬†politics with welfare.
We have schism in our very political¬†understanding. Many Nepali would be proud to be a Comnista or Kangresi. Not only are we prejudiced in small motives like anger abetting and behind-the-cloak-kill-the-neighbor approach but also that we have very unpragmatic and unrealistic expectations from politics.¬†Trivia¬†as they are ¬†the pieces of baubles picked up by a decorous women as to the columnist to explicate some¬†behavioristic aspects as well as what best suits those aspects, but we should¬†rather¬†count on some¬†instinctual¬†encodings. First, every man wants influence and that needs vent. That¬†means¬†the institutions of State are to be balanced in such way that every actor who plays as a prima donna must gratify some substantial perseverance.Precedence should be set as if no dignified politician or a national would shame. Public should be as empathetic to rural population as possible. The real change'll¬†definitely¬†dawn upon us if we realize that political characters are sublime¬†characterizations¬†of our own Nepali image. Beware public! before pointing a small patch for stain of others, know how mush mud trickle in your sleeves.¬†
29 MARCH 2011 | 5:49 PM NST
#9, there will be plenty of people abusing me when I am done with this but do you mind me asking who are "we"? Is it my "we", who thinks that Maoists are criminals? Or, is it Arthur's "we" who think that they are "our"¬†saviors?
I think that "we" should bring back the 90 constitution; there are others who would wish they could kill me for saying that. They would rather have "us" walk out in the streets again and they expect that "we" throw away these 601 and install a better representation of "us", who would be more honest.
But then the same "we" installed these 601 with the same collective zeal. How come that "us", the "we" who walked in the streets causing mayhem,¬†vandalizing¬†property not take any responsibility for what "we" did?
They would say that "we" had no way of knowing they would be what they are. It was "us" and not me who did that, if I had walked against that "us" I would not be annoying you; I would have been lynched by the mob.
You suggest that democracy will work in Nepal only when most are educated and can think rationally. But the thing with rationality is that while I rationally find the 90 constitution to be perfect for "us", there are those who believe that there cannot be any rational choice other than the dialectal materialism of the Maoist, the only ideology that can deliver "us" the prosperity and everything else that we "rationally" desire. Others would have "only free market capitalism for us", of course, they say, that should be a natural choice for "us", the only rational way.
Normally, a publication like Nepalitimes can help people like "us" understand the mystery of why honest people become useless as soon as they become politicians, but than their "we" are a different set altogether, that does not include me.