Print Edition - 2016-01-31  |  Free the Words

First 100 daze

  • If the people had to grade the government’s performance, they would give it 30 percent
- Khagendra N Sharma, Kathmandu
The government should have been prepared from day one. The formation of the Cabinet took a long time which eventually became an abominable creature with six deputy prime ministers and a horde of ministers

Jan 31, 2016-Prime Minister KP Oli completed 100 days in office last week which is known worldwide as the honeymoon period of a new government. The Oli administration has claimed it was a period of success while the opposition, especially the Nepali Congress (NC), has called it a total failure. Some harsh critics have said that completing 100 days is in itself a miraculous achievement. Wherein lies the truth?

The honeymoon period allows a new government to take things easy as it learns the ropes. There is a practice of not tabling a motion of no confidence in Parliament during this period. But Nepal’s new constitution contains a disturbing provision barring a no-confidence motion from being tabled for two years. It is not certain when this will apply. Is it applicable now? Does the Oli government fall under the new constitution or is it a continuation of the transition? These are nagging legal issues which legalists will take care of. For the purpose of this review, 100 days is the honeymoon period. 

Oli’s government deserves three grace points ­­­­­­­­­­­­­in an unbiased evaluation. They are: 1) The shattered economy caused by the devastating earthquake and the undeclared embargo on essential supplies by India. 2) The ongoing protest and agitation by the Madhesi Morcha. 3. The separation of the NC which had launched the new constitution together with the CPN-UML and the Maoists. So, in these respects, the NC is as much to blame as the UML which heads the present government.

Bad precedent 

The NC’s exit was particularly untimely because the constitution was unfinished, the Madhesi agitation was unsettled and the party was equally responsible for the statute’s full implementation. The present Parliament is the torchbearer of the transition from a unitary to a federal system, and the very composition of the federal units was the bone of contention behind the Madhesi agitation. Even after a satisfactory division of the federal units is done, federalisation would involve a long process of institutionalisation through a series of legislative changes. These are massive responsibilities from which the NC has escaped and taken the comfortable role of an opposition. 

However, the present government did know the constraints when it took charge of the country. So, it should have been prepared from day one. The formation of the Cabinet took a long time which eventually became an abominable creature with six deputy prime ministers and a horde of ministers far exceeding the constitutional limit of 25. What the Supreme Court will do about this is yet to be seen, but it is a blatant violation of the constitution. Nepal is already ill-famed for impunity. This violation of the provisions of the constitution does not create the right foundation for the establishment of the rule of law. Does the present government believe in the rule of law? If yes, it should start by complying with 

the provisions of the constitution. If there is no shame in violating the constitution, there will be no embarrassment in violating ordinary laws. This will lead to anarchy.

Not enough

Among the three most urgent tasks before the country of mitigating the impact of the earthquake, resuming supplies from India and addressing the Madhesi issue, the only positive step has been the passage of a bill creating the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) and the appointment of its CEO. Though belatedly, the NRA has taken charge, and sooner or later, the reconstruction will start. It is already too late to provide relief to the quake-victims. But even here, the NRA drew up a programme involving the President and the prime minister to launch the reconstruction campaign through irrelevant projects. The actual programme of rebuilding people’s homes has been stalled for four months. This shows visible insensitivity to the sufferings of the earthquake survivors. 

The issue of resuming supplies from India has been only partly addressed. The government could not call the blockade a blockade, and was satisfied to call it an obstruction of the movement of goods. Our foreign minister was sent to India as an emissary of the government to press for a resumption of supplies, but the response was shameful. Considering the suffering of the people due to the shortage of essential goods, much more should and could have been done. A proper diplomatic approach could have been made at different levels and on varied fronts. In that respect, the government has lately formed a consultative group to help the prime minister prepare himself to present Nepal’s case to his Indian counterpart during his impending India visit. This should have been done long before the foreign minister’s visit. 

One good thing the government has done is expanding Nepal’s trade conduits with China for importing essential supplies and reducing our over-dependence on India. But the speed at which legal and geographical linkages are being developed is very poor; and it can be predicted that as soon as supplies from India become regular, the momentum is going to slow. China is a necessary but not an adequate additional linkage to diversify our market access. New destinations like Bangladesh, Singapore, Thailand and some Gulf states must be approached to expand our access. 

Utter failure

The third important issue that needs to be addressed is the Madhesi agitation. Although more than 30 meetings have been held till now between the incumbent side and the Madhesi Morcha, the dialogue has been shallow and an inconclusive see-saw of repeated stands by both the sides. This is the most serious issue and the Indian embargo also hinges on this. The onus of carving out an acceptable solution definitely 

falls on the government. In this regard, the government has been a loser in the eyes of the people who have been 

suffering unprecedented hardships. The government should feel obliged to the people who have shown the highest degree of tolerance. 

Apart from the above, the government has failed on two other important counts. First, there is an unprecedented black marketeering due to the Indian embargo, which the government has not been able to control. Second, as a corollary of the first, prices of food grains and other essential goods have been skyrocketing, and the government has not cared to control this either. Thus, if the government has to be evaluated by the people, it would get just 30 percent marks. Oli-ji, this is not a joke!

Sharma is a political analyst

Published: 31-01-2016 09:40

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