Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal had planned to get his China visit endorsed by a cabinet meeting before leaving Kathmandu on 23 March.
But Dahal was not sure which of his deputies to make acting Prime Minister: Bimalendra Nidhi of the NC and Kamal Thapa of the RPP were both claiming seniority. So Dahal called off the cabinet meeting, and left Nepal for the week-long visit without naming anyone acting Prime Minister.
This is just another example of how Dahal has lost his ability to make bold decisions.
When he became Prime Minister for the first time in 2008, Dahal did not shy from making bold and even controversial decisions. He was then a symbol of fierceness and revolutionary zeal.
Dahal is now a different person. It seems that he has lost his ability to lead and persuade, and is fast becoming a man of inaction.
During his first prime ministerial tenure, Dahal sacked Army Chief Rookmangud Katwal despite opposition from other parties, ended the practice of appointing an Indian as the head priest of Pashupatinath, proposed a revision of the 1950 treaty with India and agreed to integrate ex-Maoist combatants into the national army despite opposition from hardliners within his party.
This time, Dahal looks a shadow of himself. He has not yet decided whether Nidhi is senior to Thapa. He failed to exercise his power to choose a police chief of his choice, and agreed on the name proposed by NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba. The only significant decision that Dahal has made so far is to announce local elections on 14 May, but this he did only after being pressed by Deuba.
Then, Dahal was defiant to India. This time, he has not uttered a word against the neighbour, even when a Nepali was killed by the Indian border force in Kanchanpur district.
A leader from Dahal’s own party says: “Our Prime Minister has turned into a rubber stamp. He does what he is told by his coalition partners.
CPN (Maoist-Centre) spokesperson Pampha Bhusal puts it differently: “As the leader of the ruling coalition, the Prime Minister has to walk hand-in-hand with other partners. He cannot make every decision on his own.
Bhusal adds that Dahal would have remained the same firebrand leader if the Maoists had triumphed in the last election.