Nepali Times
State Of The State
100 days of solitude


Few will have noticed Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal's honeymoon period has come to an end. He earned the sobriquet of 'Premier of Rautahat' by visiting his constituency more often than ministries under his charge. He decided to outgrow the image of being too tied to the ground by flying off to the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Sharm El-Sheikh first. He may be in New York next month to address the UN Summit. In between, he managed to pay the customary respects to the Delhi Darbar.

Nepal's pilgrimage to New Delhi hogged the limelight at home but was completely ignored by the media of the host country. At the end of the trip, a long and tedious joint communiqu? had to be issued. Diplomats know that successful agreements speak for themselves while failed negotiations need to be hidden behind a veil of verbiage.

If Premier Nepal were to vacate the jinxed Baluwatar premises tomorrow (as he must sooner rather than later like all his predecessors, none of whom ever got to complete a full term) what will the country remember his term of office for? Even Raghu Pant, a former journalist and current adviser to Prime Minister Nepal, will have a tough time compiling even a list of work-in-progress, let alone an inventory of accomplishments.

When Madhav Kumar Nepal took oath of office at the head of the anti-Maoist coalition on 25 May 2009 below the ramparts of Sital Niwas presidential palace, nobody expected anything from him. That he was being sworn in as the successor of Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal was an achievement in itself for the forces of status quo in the country. He took immediate steps to show that the old order was back in the saddle at Singha Darbar.

Dismissed army chief Rookmangad Katawal, continuing to function on the basis of the midnight missive from President Ram Baran Yadav, was promptly restored to his post. Retired army generals, stayed by court orders, were given extensions even as their cases remained sub judice. Maoists may be overdoing their 'civil supremacy' act, but it's clearly an issue Premier Nepal has neither the motivation nor the determination to face. Whether he has the political strength or the moral authority to introduce security sector reforms is also an open question.

Nepal revived the royal dress code and labeda-suruwal became the authorised dress of the anti-Maoist coalition. The Supreme Court has since declared that only Nepali has legal status as the official language of the country. Premier Nepal let the word 'god' lapse in his oath, but the hoary tradition of welcoming high dignitaries at the airport by Five Virgins is back. Welcome to the good old days of One Language, One Dress, One Religion, and One What-have-you of unitary Nepal because Prime Minister Nepal is proud of the past.

The only saving grace is that since nobody expected anything from his government, Nepal hasn't disappointed anyone. In fact, those who have been victims of Maoist excesses in the past are quite happy that the present council of ministers is making no attempt to govern. The police have resumed collecting tributes from businesses in Biratnagar. The overhead charges at Birganj Customs are back. The main job of labour union leaders in Butwal and Hetauda is once again to loiter in the lobbies of factory managers.

This government can do nothing to resolve the issue of Maoist combatants, reform the bureaucracy, provide relief to the poor, revive the economy or even control prices. No government that lacks the support of Maoists can help the Constituent Assembly do its work and complete a new statute. Premier Nepal is lucky no one expects much of him.

Pushpa Kamal Dahal failed because he tried to do everything at once. Nepal has succeeded by doing almost nothing.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)