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Nepalese Politics Of Electing a Prime Minister

Issue 38, August 08, 2010

Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

Three major political parties and one loose alliance of four Madheshi political parties have been playing a political game in the arena of the election to a new Prime Minister after Prime Minister Madhav Nepal has fallen from power on June 30, 2010. All these four parties must have their own goal to achieve in the current fluid political situation.

First of all, if we believe in the political statements of the leaders of the largest party UCPN-Maoist they are for a something different democratic system from the parliamentary system of governance. Perhaps, these political guys have been after the political game of the election to prove the parliamentary system of governance is a failure. However, during the four rounds of the election to a New Prime Minister, they have clearly engaged in courting leaders of different political parties for getting sufficient votes for electing a new Prime Minister.

For the fourth round of election to be held on Friday, August 6, 2010, they have engaged women UCPN-Maoist leaders to court all the women legislators for voting the UCPN-Maoist candidate for a new Prime Minister. This is clearly a parliamentary political game they have been playing that they have apparently shown distaste for.

They have repeatedly said that the UCPN-Maoist is for the consensus politics; at the same time, they don’t believe that they can build a consensus on a new government. In response to the NC candidate for a Prime Minister Ram Chandra Poudel’s request for the support for his candidacy, Chairman of UCPN-Maoist Prachanda has said, “We will support you staying in the opposition.” If the leaders of the UCPN-Maoist are sincerely for the consensus politics then they need to go along with the NC and CPN-UML leaders.

The UCPN-Maoist leaders have kept several fronts opened to fight against the status quo and regressive forces labels on some political leaders they have put. They have kept the farmers in the state of revolution letting them to capture and keep the lands belonging to the large landowners and the land unscrupulously registered by former state employees and so on. The UCPN-Maoist leaders have successfully upgraded the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and have increased its capacity making the soldiers professionals. Recently, the PLA has even announced to make fresh recruits to make the number of soldiers to 30,000 means to keep its army at the level of when UNMIN made verification of it, to counter the Nepal Army’s public announcement of filling the vacancy positions. The UCPN-Maoist legislators have been saying that they have been fighting to counter the possible counter-revolution by the regressive forces means primarily the NC leaders and some of the CPN-UML leaders, too.

The NC leaders have forced the UCPN-Maoist to agree on amending the Interim Constitution of Nepal of 2007 for making the provision for a majority rule instead of the consensus politics believing that they can mobilize the like-minded leaders of the CPN-UML and the Madheshi political parties for a majority rule. In fact, they formed an alliance of the NC, CPN-UML and UDMF: alliance of four Madheshi political parties for the election to a President and Vice-president, and then formed a coalition government of their alliance in 2009 after the resignation of Prime Minister Prachanda.

After the fall of the coalition government headed by Madhav Nepal on June 30, 2010, the NC leaders found themselves isolated. They have believed that the CPN-UML and the Madheshi leaders will support them to lead a new government as they have done to Madhav Nepal. So, they have also opted for pulling down the Madhav government. However, we have seen from the results of the four successive elections to a new Prime Minister that such thing has not happened. NC leaders have unsuccessfully courted the CPN-UML and Madheshi leaders to support their Prime Ministerial candidate Ram Chandra Poudel.

The provision for a majority rule instead of the consensus politics the NC leaders have forced on the UCPN-Maoist has put the NC leaders vulnerable to the support of the CPN-UML and the Madheshi political parties. Not only the NC cannot stand on its own feet but also even on the support of the CPN-UML. The NC needs the support of the CPN-UML and the Madheshi political parties to have even a simple majority for forming a new government discounting the small political parties that altogether have only 57 legislators. The NC leaders have fallen into the trap they have obviously set for the leaders of the UCPN-Maoist.

During the democratic innovation, most of the time, the NC leaders have ruled the country in the past. However, they could not set an example of the rule of law for others to follow. Rather during the reign of the NC leaders, the mismanagement of the national resources has been the order of the day, misrule has prevailed, and corruption has been a regular business. Most of the NC leaders indicted by the court for corruption have been sitting on the central working committee of the NC. Certainly, sincere legislators will think twice before voting the NC leaders. That might be one of the reasons why the Madheshi leaders and small-parties leaders have been reluctant to support the NC candidate Ram Chandra Poudel for a Prime minister.

The CPN-UML leaders have been divided into the camp of Jhalanath Khanal and Bamdev Gautam on one hand and of Madhav Nepal and KP Oli on other hand. Most of the central committee members including Madhav Nepal, KP Oli, and Bamdev Gautam of the CPN-UML are defeated in the election to the Constituent Assembly held on April 10, 2008. Once, KP Oli was the Foreign Minister in the government of Girija Prasad Koirala: President of NC. Bamdev Gautam was the Minister for Home in the government of Prachanda: Chairman of UCPN-Maoist. Mr. Gautam loves to be the Home Minister, as it gives the power of managing the national security.

After the fall of the Madhav government, Madhav Nepal has tricked the central committee of the CPN-UML to make a decision on supporting only the candidate that can garner a two-third majority in other words a consensus candidate. Madhav Nepal knows that without the support of the leaders of the UCPN-Maoist, the NC and the CPN-UML leaders cannot make a two-third majority. Thus, the decision on voting the candidate with a two-third majority has been surely the revenge Madhav Nepal has taken on the NC leaders and his boss Jhalanath Khanal that have opted for the fall of his government. Thus, Madhav Nepal has tricked first Jhalanath Khanal to lose the position of a new Prime Minister that has come very close after the UCPN-Maoist have agreed on supporting him, and then Ram Chandra Poudel not to get the support of the legislators of the CPN-UML for his candidacy.

Madhav Nepal has set the record of not following the rule of law during the 13-moth reign of his government. He has appointed the governor of the Central Bank of Nepal called Nepal Rastra Bank two months after the retirement of the incumbent governor. Following the rule of law he needs to appoint a governor one month before the retirement of the incumbent governor. He has given the contract of printing machine-readable passports (MRPs) to the Indian state-owned company canceling the international bids for it and disregarding the instructions of the legislative Public Account Committee to call international bids for printing the MRPs following the rule of law. Officiating Prime Minister Madhav Nepal has met with former Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Sharan that has visited Nepal from August 4 to 6, 2010 as a special envoy of the Indian Prime Minister to break the political deadlock the election to a new Prime Minister has reached. Following the rule of law, Prime Minister needs to meet any foreign dignitaries in presence of an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Madhav Nepal has amassed a huge wealth increasing the prices of foodstuffs and state-controlled items such as sugar. He has trebled the prices of potatoes and stopped the entry of potatoes to the Kathmandu Valley to keep the high prices of potatoes benefiting the traders holding potatoes at cold storages and him. Mr. Nepal has also doubled the price of sugar at the time of crushing sugarcanes making the state-run company to buy sugar from the mill owners at the higher price. After the purchase of the sugar from the mill owners he reduced the price clearly indicating that Mr. Nepal has worked with the sugar mill owners to benefit him and the mill owners, too. He could do such things because the government has the monopoly on buying and selling sugar. He has reinstated the subsidy on fertilizers causing two billion rupees losses to the nation in the fiscal year 2009.

Madhav Nepal has sufficient money to play the political game. It is not surprising that he is having an upper hand in his party CPN-UML. He has been playing the political game in his party affecting the entire political game in Nepal. He is not allowing anybody to be a Prime Minister even after more than a month he has quit the office of Prime Minister.

Mr. Jhalanath Khanal is of a weak mind and low political morals. He did not pull out his candidate for a Prime Minister in the first round of the election to a Prime Minister held on July 21, 2010 but his colleague Madhav Nepal pulled his candidacy out of the contest saying he could not garner a two-third majority his party has decided he needs to garner. Actually, Mr. Khanal has lobbied for the support of other political parties for his candidacy and even got the support of UCPN-Maoist and has been ready to be an elected Prime Minister but his rival Madhav Nepal has spoilt the whole process withdrawing his candidacy.

Mr. Jhalanath Khanal believes that he will be the only candidate for Prime Minister acceptable to the two-third of the legislators in view of even the fourth round of the election to a Prime Minister held n August 6, 2010 has failed to elect a Prime Minister, and approval ratings of both the Prime Ministerial candidates have waned in this round of the election. Maybe, he has been dreaming that all the political leaders will come to him and plead him to lead a two-third-majority government. Mr. Madhav Nepal will not let it happen even though all the political leaders are ready to do so. Mr. Khanal has been at the mercy of Mr. Madhav Nepal.

The loose front called United Democratic Madheshi Front (UDMF) made up of four Madheshi political parties such as Madheshi People’s Rights Forum-Nepal (MPRF-Nepal), Madheshi People’s Rights Forum-Democratic (MPRF-Democratic), Tarai-Madhesh Democratic Party (TMDP) and Nepal Sadbhavana Party (NSP) has been hanging around with the NC and CPN-UML disregarding their demands that NC and CPN-UML have publicly rejected. However, this time, taking the advantage of the three major parties such as UCPN-Maoist, NC and CPN-UML not agreeing on the consensus politics, the leaders of the UDMF have again come closer to put pressure on these three major political to meet their demands. However, only the Constituent Assembly can meet some of the demands they have put forward and firmly hold on to them.

These Madheshi political parties can make the majority in the legislature joining the UCPN-Maoist or the coalition of the NC and CPN-UML. The UCPN-Maoist has the agenda that meet most of their demands; however, they are reluctant to join hands with the Maoists to form a new government, as most of the leaders of the Madheshi political parties have the feelings that they cannot go along with them, as the Maoists have other agenda to finish off the large landlords for supporting the landless and small farmers. Such agenda threaten their status of large landowners. In fact, some of the Madheshi leaders have lost their lands to the Maoist farmers. They have been putting pressure on the Maoists to return their land seized during the conflict period.

The Madheshi leaders can go along with the leaders of NC and CPN-UM, as their interest coincide with the leaders of the NC and CPN-UML. They have been with the mother parties such as NC and CPN-UML several years, and several decades in the case of the NC in the past. So, they know the traits of the leaders of NC and CPN-UML but these guys have been against the agenda of the Madheshi political parties. The Madheshi leaders cannot simply follow the leaders of the NC and CPN-UML and become the tails of these two larger parties as in the past when they have been in these parties if they want to go back to the Madheshi people that have voted them to power.

Some of the Madheshi leaders have been ready to join the NC bandwagon but their votes are not sufficient to make a simple majority even if all small parties also join them. They need the votes of the CPN-UML to form a majority government. We have seen that the CPN-UML leaders are not for joining a majority government. They feel that they have had enough of the majority government of Mr. Madhav Nepal that has done nothing to enhance the reputation of the CPN-UML. In addition, Madhav Nepal has been telling his colleagues in his own party and other parties that he has had a majority when he quit the office for paving the way to form a consensus government. He is not for allowing any one to form a majority government.

As a special envoy of Indian Prime Minister Dr. Man Mohan Singh, Former Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Sharan has made a quick visit to Nepal from August 4 to 6, 2010 to break the deadlock the election to a new Prime Minister has reached. Obviously, he has a plan to bring Madhav Nepal and Ram Chandra Poudel together and then form a majority government led by Mr. Poudel with the support of the Madheshi parties. The result of the fourth round of the election to a new Prime Minister has shown that Mr. Sharan has failed in his mission. It has also indicated that Nepalese political leaders have this time ignored the political solutions prescribed by the Indian bosses although Mr. Madhav Nepal and his colleague KP Oli are for following the Indian prescription for remedying the current political ailment lobbying for the support for Ram Chandra Poudel despite the decision of their party on not voting the majority candidate. Maybe, this decision of their party is applicable to the candidacy of their party boss Jhalanath Khanal only.

The Indian agenda do not suit the Madheshi political parties, too. Indian leaders are not willing to see Nepal being the federal state, as it will make them difficult to deal with. So, this time, Madheshi leaders also did not take the Indian political advice Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Sharan has so graciously provided them. The Madheshi leaders have wrongly or rightly promised the Nepalis of Indian origin living in the southern strip of the Nepalese plane to bring them an autonomous state of Madheshi so that they can have a self-rule. Madheshi leaders want to have an autonomous state to be on a par with other Nepalis, as they have been carrying with them the feelings of being the second-class citizens taking the historical facts that the then-Nepalese rulers had brought them to Nepal to till the lands for the rulers. Some of the Madheshi leaders have been saying that Madheshi people toil for the benefits of others. The fact was that most of the Nepalis were second-class citizens and they toiled for the rulers in the past.

Disregarding the historical fact that the then rulers had denied the entry to the Nepal army to most of the ethnic people, Madheshi people also feel that the rulers have denied the entry into the Nepal Army to them. The rulers also denied any high positions in the army to the ethnic people that were allowed to join the Nepal Army in the past. Only the people belonging to the so-called ruling class had the monopoly on the Nepal Army. So, we can certainly say that not only Madheshi people but also most of the Nepalis had no access to Nepal Army in the past. Thus, majority of the Nepalis had been the second-class citizens. So, the question is whether the Madheshi political leaders are reasonable to demand the group entry of the Madheshi people into the Nepal Army and whether their demand for ‘one Madhesh one province’ is also reasonable in view of the similar status other ethnic people had in the past, and whether their holding of the election to a new Prime Minister hostage to their demands reasonable or not.

All political leaders whether they are of the Madhesh origin or of hill origin, they need to put forward only reasonable demands to the political parties or agencies that can obviously meet such demands but not to take the national issue hostage to their demands. Then only they can work together for the peace, rule of law and prosperity. Currently, the rule of law has been the victim of forces of the political parties, the President and the Prime Minister. So, we need to end such things and punish those people that have abused the law and violated the rule of law including the President and the Prime Minister.

August 7, 2010.

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