Whose government is it anyway? People ask as President presents policies and programmes

  • The President’s use of ‘mero sarkar’ while reading out the document invited criticism and ridicule on social media. But ‘this is very much the President’s government,’ the government defends
- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

May 4, 2019-

President Bidya Devi Bhandari on Friday presented the government’s policies and programmes for the fiscal year 2019-20 in the joint session of the House of Representatives and the National Assembly. But minutes into her speech, focus shifted from the government’s past achievements and future plans to a particular phrase Bhandari kept repeating--as many as 21 times.

The President’s use of “mero sarkar”--or my government--to refer to the Government of Nepal drew criticism and ridicule on social media, with many drawing parallels with the erstwhile monarchy when kings would refer to the government as theirs.

Multiple experts, policymakers and former bureaucrats the Post spoke to described the government’s policies and programmes as a “bundle of tall promises” but also pointedly referred to the use of “mero sarkar” by the President.

Rameshore Khanal, former finance secretary, who had earlier asked that he be not asked for comments on the government’s policies and programmes, was quick to tweet: “Whose sovereign government is this? Is this the President’s or the people’s government? Which tradition are we repeating?”

Opposition lawmaker Gagan Thapa wrote on Twitter: “I was present in Parliament to listen to the policies and programmes of the Nepal government or the people’s government. But the President is reading out her personal government’s programmes. Where and when should I come to listen to the Nepal government’s policies and programmes?” Thapa of the Nepali Congress tagged @PM_Nepal, the official Twitter handle of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli

Last year, on the same occasion, Bhandari had not used “mero sarkar” to refer to the Nepal government.

On social media, some posted screenshots of Part 1 (Preliminary) of the Constitution of Nepal, asking why the Head of State was referring to the government as “my government”. Article 2 of the Constitution of Nepal reads: “The sovereignty and state authority of Nepal shall be vested in the Nepali people. It shall be exercised in accordance with the provisions set forth in this Constitution.”

The use of “my government” was in practice until 2006, when the government was still referred to as ‘His Majesty’s Government’. After the country was declared a republic in 2008, Nepal’s first president, Ram Baran Yadav, used ‘Nepal government’ to refer to the government while presenting the policies and programmes.

Government officials, however, defended the President’s use of “my government”, claiming that it was the “international practice”.

Bishnu Rimal, chief adviser to Prime Minister Oli, said that starting this year, “my government” will be used [by the President], as per the international practice.

“In India too, the President, while reading out the policies and programmes, uses ‘my government’ to refer to the Indian government,” Rimal told the Post over the phone. “Second, Ram Baran Yadav as President did not say ‘my government’ because the political transition was not over when he was in office. Third, we decided to use that phrase after examining the decorum--this is very much the President’s government.”

Meanwhile, Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, also leader of the opposition, said that there was nothing new in the document and that it was “full of assurances and promises”.

“It is a bundle of promises and the repetition of old policies,” he said. “There is no need to comment on old things.”

Govinda Pokhrel, former vice president of the National Planning Commission, also said that he could not find anything new in the document.

“It sounds like a report card of the government, rather than a document which sets out a vision for the next fiscal year,” Pokhrel told the Post. “Ideally, policies and programmes should talk about future endeavours. This document only talks about what the government did in its one year in office.”

Published: 04-05-2019 07:35

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