For months, PM runs off ice from residence in Baluwatar

- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu
For months, PM runs off ice from residence in Baluwatar

Nov 7, 2014-

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala has been running his office exclusively form his Baluwatar residence ever since he was taken ill in June. He flew to the US twice, in July and September, after being diagnosed with lung cancer, underwent treatment there, and his doctor has said that his cancer is in remission. But the improvement in his health has not persuaded Koirala to regularly visit his office in Singha Durbar, where most ministries are based. A source close to Koirala said he only started attending the weekly Cabinet meeting in Singha Durbar last month, the rest of the week he remains cloistered in his official residence.  

All private and political meetings take place in Baluwatar these days. From ministers, government officials to senior political leaders, they all visit Baluwatar whenever there are important decisions to be made or agendas to be discussed with the prime minister, who is also the president of ruling Nepali Congress.

Koirala’s reclusive behaviour has not only caused inconvenience for the members of his Cabinet, but also affected the government works. Even the officials at the Prime Minister’s Office rarely see Koirala.

“Our medium of communication with the prime minister is the chief secretary,” said one official, who believes that the daily briefing sessions and the office operation would be better if the prime minister came to his office regularly.

Another official said that it is difficult visiting Baluwatar every day for briefing over official matters because of time constraints as well as sensitivity of the issues.

When the prime minister is at his Singha Durbar office, senior government officials and secretaries can make appointments to discuss the issues that they deem of importance and dealt with immediately. “There is no such privilege when you have to visit the prime minister at his official residence. Usually, he is busy in some prior engagements,” said on government secretary. “We get in touch with the concerned ministers or relay our topic to the prime minister through the chief secretary and his aides,” he added.   

When PM Koirala returned after his first treatment session in the US in August, his aides had said that he would soon resume his office. Then, the Koirala-led government had already started facing criticisms for its poor performance against the backdrop of his failing health.

Koirala’s health issue and his long absence from his office has only intensified the public misgivings and concerns about his leadership. Although he is known, even admired by many, for leading an austere, hermit-like life, but that image of his is not helping him since he holds the top public office.

“Prime Minister Sushil Koirala may be following the path of his political mentor, late Girija Prasad Koirala, who also had the reputation of running his office from Baluwatar. But there is a lot of difference between the two leaders, and the time and political situation of the country, too, have changed,” said Govinda Kusum, former home secretary.  “If the prime minister is not working from the office, it is going to have a direct impact on governance, where decisions are not taken on time,” he said.

According to PM’s Media Coordinator Prakash Adhikari, Koirala has been going to Singha Durbar whenever necessary. “He feels comfortable holding the meetings in Baluwatar as there are fewer people. Besides, renovation works are under way at Singha Durbar.”

Published: 08-11-2014 09:09

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