Some senior ministers in Sher Bahadur Deuba's cabinet opposed to the prime minister's moves to set up a high-powered anti-corruption commission are getting together to oppose it. Fearing that they could be swept into the dragnet, the senior ministers are said to have disagreed with the idea to give the special commission the authority to fight corruption.
Among the ministers opposing the move are said to be Chrianjibi Wagle, Khum Bahadur Khadka, Bijaya Kumar Gachhedar, Bal Bahadur KC, Sarad Singh Bhandari, Jaya Prakash Gupta. Deuba is said to be determined to get the special commission to start with the clean up within the government itself, and set some high-profile examples. Deuba had earlier said he was willing to give the Commission for the Investigation for the Abuse of Authority more authority to persecute the guilty. He had even drafted an anti-corruption ordinance, but this was shunted to the backburner because the same senior ministers opposed it.
When the draft was presented to the cabinet two weeks ago, Wagle, Gupta and other ministers vehemently opposed it. The draft was a result of discussion between Deuba and the CIAA's chief commissioner. The ministers accused the commissioner of being "too ambitious" and said there were enough provisions in the law and a new ordinance was not required.
Faced with a political dead-end, Deuba is bringing in the idea of a high-level anti-corruption commission to show that he is serious about the matter. Even the Left opposition is of the opinion that corruption cannot be controlled without a "new kind of commission". Deuba started pushing ahead with his new idea after meeting with senior UML leaders, observers say.
But Deuba may face a mutiny from his ministers if he presses ahead, and fanning the flames will be Deuba's rival Girija Koirala, who is waiting in the wings to stage a comeback. This is the moment of truth for Deuba. Does he have the political will and the confidence to push through with the commission?
The CIAA has complained that it has not been able to prosecute the corrupt because of the lack of relevant laws. But that is not the only problem-there are questions about how the commissioners themselves are appointed and by whom. It is pretty evident that the commissioners have been political appointees. It is this politicisation that has prevented the CIAA from taking stern action against those guilty of corruption. Maybe this is why Deuba wants to go for a high-level anti-corruption commission. The prospect of a special commission against graft is probably what worries some senior ministers.