14-20 February 2014 #694

The year of living dangerously

It’s very simple: KP Oli needs Bam Dev and Bam Dev wants the Home Ministry
Anurag Acharya
No surprise that Monsieur Sushil Koirala has become the 37th prime minister of this country, with conditional support from the UML. Two weeks ago, we were taken to task for suggesting that his government was doomed even before it was formed. But that is the way the cookie has always crumbled in Nepali politics.

After 1990, no government was able to deliver on its commitment because they were all busy fire-fighting and trying to survive challenges from rivals within and without. Political allies are bought with attractive promises or posts and perks. But the promises are rarely kept and the governments come tumbling down.?

From the day a prime minister is elected, he is more worried about sour competitors rather than the pressing issues of the nation. It needs exceptional resourcefulness and statesmanship to quell adversaries and still find time and focus on running the country. So don’t blame an ailing old man if he has no appetite for the new constitution.

For those of us who have seen this drama being staged seven times in the last six years, there is nothing ironic about the UML threatening to unseat the prime minister it voted to power less than 24 hours ago. It’s very simple: KP Oli needs Bam Dev Gautam and Bam Dev wants the Home Ministry.

The fact that the local elections may be taking place sometime soon makes the Home Ministry the most sought after office, as the one running it has unparalleled advantages of controlling and mobilising bureaucracy and the police. A compromise may be reached in the coming weeks, but the media mongering over portfolios has exposed the hollow unity expressed by the two oldest parties claiming to deliver the constitution within a year.

To be sure, parties in the CA will have their own sets of differences over the vision and structure of New Nepal. The NC and UML, together command a two-third majority in the CA, but disputes over portfolios and running the government can easily spill over into the CA. The two parties still differ on many issues, particularly on forms of government and number of federal units.

But even if the NC and UML stick together throughout the process, they alone cannot dictate the statute drafting. A constitution is a document of consensus and if Nepali society is to emerge out of this long drawn political transition, it is imperative that the new statute be adopted by all constituencies. This can only happen if Dalits, Madhesis, Janajatis, women, and sexual minorities, who have been historically wronged, are actively involved at all levels of statute drafting in the CA.

They may be the largest parties representing the aspirations of a majority, but the NC and UML leadership cannot be dismissive of the grievances and demands made from the hitherto marginalised. They must be willing to engage with the identity politics of Madhesis and the Janajatis. The Maoists and Madhesi parties may have championed the inclusive agenda so far, but the aspiration for self rule and autonomy is not partisan.

Sushil Koirala may have just entered Singha Darbar, but he is already running out of time. He has an unenviable job of keeping his business as the head of the government, apart from his role as the leader of the largest party responsible for drafting the statute.

Read also:

Another crossroad, EDITORIAL

Whose Home is it anyway?, TRISHNA RANA

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