In 100 days, Oli Cabinet has little to boast about

- KAMAL DEV BHATTARAI, Kathmandu

Jan 19, 2016-

CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli was elected the prime minister on October 11 last year on his promise to address multiple crises facing the country ranging from the Madhes agitation to the Indian blockade. He was expected to ease the hardships faced by thousands of earthquake-displaced people living in makeshift tents during a harsh winter.

But after 100 days of the customary honeymoon period reserved to pass judgment on the performance of a new government, coalition partners, opposition parties and independent experts all agree on one thing: the government has failed to deliver on any of the big ticket issues.

In the words of coalition partner UCPN (Maoist), the performance of the Oli Cabinet has been “very dismal.” During internal discussions, Maoist ministers have been told to mend ways or risk being recalled.

“The Oli-led government has failed to address people’s basic aspirations,” said UCPN (M) Spokesperson Dina Nath Sharma. He, however, said some trade agreements with China and the decisions related to earthquake are achievements of the government.

Nepali Congress General Secretary Krishna Prasad Sitaula was much harsher on the government. He said its performance was next to zero, charging that the government failed to work at a speed it was expected to during a time of crisis.

On addressing the Madhes issue, Oli did not take sufficient initiative early enough. Instead, he took a rigid position complicating a possible deal with the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha. The PM is criticised for failing to create an environment of trust with the Madhes-based parties and for engaging in speeches rather than negotiating with leaders of the Madhesi parties.

“The Oli government failed to take leadership to resolve the Madhes crisis. Of late, there has been some progress in talks with the Madhes-based parties but that is not because of the government,” said NC leader Gagan Thapa.

In his initial days in office, Oli took a rigid stance that there can be no change on the federal boundaries, which irked the Madhes-based parties. Some of his public statements created a hostile relation between the PM and the regional forces.

The only silver lining is the belated negotiation process with the agitating Madhesi parties that promises a result. Even coalition partner UCPN (Maoist) blames the protracted Tarai crisis on Oli’s rigid stance. Initially, he was seen as a divisive figure by other parties. Of late, however, there is some rapprochement between Oli and the protesting parties.

Analysts say Oli should have taken serious measures soon after becoming the PM to take the Madhesi parties into confidence. UML leader Pradeep Gyawali, however, said the government took a leading role to resolve the Madhes crisis and was on course to strike a deal.

On dealing with the Indian blockade, instead of engaging in constructive diplomacy, the prime minister is accused of playing the nationalism card, thereby prolonging the standoff with India. 

“The government failed to make alternative arrangements to cope with the crisis created by the blockade,” said Maoist leader Sharma. The government tried to bring daily essentials from China but there was no progress.

On the governance front, Oli has been accused of misusing his power to cement his position. Splitting ministries and doling out portfolios have done no good to his image. He faced criticism from his own party, the ruling Maoists and the media for splitting the ministries that made the Cabinet unexpectedly large.

The Supreme Court sought clarification from the government for dividing the ministries. The government also faced disapproval for initiating the process to provide luxurious facilities to former VIPs at a time when the country is facing economic hardships. On dealing with the crisis triggered by the earthquake, formation of the Reconstruction Authority and appointment of its chief executive officer is an achievement. The government has launched a mega rebuilding campaign but it will take months before the reconstruction of damaged structures actually begins. 

Cabinet ministers claim it as a major achievement since the government led by Nepali Congress President Sushil Koirala had failed to form the body on time.

The Oli government drew flak for delaying the distribution of the Rs10,000 cash 

relief to the quake survivors to buy warm clothes as the chill has been biting in flimsy shelters.

On diplomacy, Oli failed to win the trust of the international community. Since the promulgation of the new constitution four months ago, Nepal-India relations have soured. “The Oli government has been unable to handle international affairs aptly,” said NC leader Thapa. The appointment of ambassadors to several countries is yet to be made.

Oli’s public statements were censured in the mainstream media as well as on social media. Mainly, he was ridiculed for promising things which are possible to be achieved only in the long term when what people need is immediate relief. On social media, he has been projected as a “comedian”.

As Oli completes three months in office, there is growing dissatisfaction in 

the prime minister’s own party. UML leaders close to Jhala Nath Khanal and Madhav Kumar Nepal are speaking against the government’s poor show. UML leader Gyawali, however, defended the government. “Talks with the Madhes-bases parties are in a decisive phase. The government has fulfilled its responsibility,” he said.

Meanwhile, Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal proposed the formation of a national unity government to undertake the historic responsibility of implementing the new constitution and of rebuilding houses, heritage sites and infrastructure ravaged by the devastating earthquake last year. Dahal said he was ready even to discuss the leadership of the new government.

Gyawali said the government’s 100 days were productive as it played a vital role to normalise the situation at a time when the parties were sharply divided.

On the implementation of the newly adopted constitution, the Oli Cabinet made some progress. It has identified nearly two hundred laws that need to be amended to be compatible with the new charter. Observers say the government’s future depends on how it handles the Madhes-based parties, service delivery and reconstruction.

Hits

  • Formation of National Reconstruction Authority 
  • Constitution amendment bill tabled in Parliament
  • Identifying laws that need amendment to implement the new constitution and registering bills
  • MoU with China on petroleum import

Misses

  •     Prolonged border blockade
  •     Indecisive talks with Madhes-based parties
  •    Jumbo Cabinet, splitting ministries
  •    No relief for earthquake-affected people 
  •   Ambassadorial vacancies

Published: 19-01-2016 09:10

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