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Prospects of Coalition Government in Nepal

Issue 36, September 07, 2008

By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

Finally, Maoist Chairman Prachanda put together all political parties willing to be partners in the coalition government and gave a full shape even though some small parties might join in the government in the future. Three major parties such as Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist), Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML), and Madheshi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) are major players in the coalition government. The CPN-UML could have sent better persons than those sent to join the government. The swearing-in ceremony was held on August 31, 2008.

The swearing-in ceremony for the newly inducted ministers did not go off without a hitch. Obviously, the presidential-residence administration did not make the reporting arrangement properly. First, they did not let the reporters in to the presidential residence where the ceremony was to be held soon. Reporters took it as an insult to them. So, the reporters boycotted the ceremony laying down their cameras and reporting equipment at the entrance to the presidential residence. Even the Minister for Information could not persuade the reporters to cover the swearing-in ceremony. The Minister assured the reporter of not repeating such incident in the future. The presidential administration set up a committee to investigate the snag in administering the reporting system and to report it within five days.

Prime Minister Prachanda administered the oath of office and secrecy to six ministers including Bamdev Gautam belonging to the CPN-UML and six ministers belonging to CPN-Maoist and one each minister belonging to Nepal Sadbhavana Party, Janamorcha Nepal (People’s Front), and CPN-United on August 31, 2008. The CPN-ML was supposed to join in the government but did not do so obviously not getting the appropriate portfolio for its General Secretary CP Mainali.

The CPN-UML proposed-six ministers did not participate in the first swearing-in ceremony held on August 22, 2008 saying that Bamdev Gautam did not get the position next to the Prime Minister so it was a breach of protocol. Although all of six ministers to-be in full uniform and were at the presidential residence for taking an oath of office and secrecy from the Prime Minister in presence of the President, they refused to take the oath when they found out that Dr. Baburam Bhattarai was next to the Prime Minister in the hierarchy of the ministers.

However, the Prime Minister went ahead of administering the swearing-in ceremony for eight ministers belonging four each to the CPN-Maoist and MPRF on August 22, 2008; he could not call off the ceremony, as he was going to China for attending the concluding ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Game on August 24, 2008.

One of the ministers to-be Vishnu Poudel coming out of the presidential premises and talking to the reporters said in a belligerent tone that Bamdev Gautam did not get the second position in the cabinet; it was a breach of protocol; Gautam had been a Deputy Prime Minister in the previous government; so, he needed to get the second position in the cabinet otherwise the CPN-UML would not join in the cabinet. General Secretary Jhalanath Khanal simply repeated what Mr. Poudel had said to the reporters.

In 1997 after the defeat of the coalition government of the Nepali Congress (NC) and Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) headed by Sher Bahadur Deuba in the no-confidence vote during the period of the hung parliament, Bamdev Gautam became the Deputy Prime Minister of the coalition government of the CPN-UML and RPP headed by Lokendra Bahadur Chand. Mr. Gautam as a Deputy Prime Minister also had the portfolio of Home. He held the local elections and made his party the most successful one in the local elections making sure that most of the members of his party were elected to various positions in the local governments. In addition, Mr. Gautam could not keep his image clean and left negative impression on the people. Maybe, these are the few reasons why he lost the election held on April 10, 2008, for the seat on the Constituent Assembly.

The CPN-UML cadres had objected the selection of the losers in the election for the Constituent Assembly seats for the ministerial positions. However, the CPN-UML leadership brushed off the concerns of the cadres selecting most of the losers for the ministerial positions.

Central Committee Member of CPN-UML and Member of Constituent Assembly Bhim Rawal strongly came out against not including anyone from the far western region of Nepal on the proposed list of ministers. He even threatened that all of the members of the Constituent Assembly elected from the far western region would resign en mass from the Constituent Assembly if the CPN-UML did not reconsider the selection of ministers to join in the coalition government headed by Maoist Chairman Prachanda. However, nothing came out of his stand as well as of the CPN-UML leadership on the revision of the list of the selected persons for the ministerial positions.

Immediately after taking the oath of office and secrecy from Prime Minister Prachanda in presence of the president on August 31, 2008, Deputy Prime Minister Bamdev Gautam declared triumphantly that he would bring to an end to the anarchy and lawlessness; would also end the political protection of the criminals; he swore that he would take actions against any criminal activities of no matter whether they were the members of the Youth Force (YF) belonging to his party or Young Communist League (YCL) belonging to the CPN-Maoist.

The irony was that recently there was a fierce fighting between the cadres of the Youth Force and the YCL in Dhankuta: the administrative headquarters of the eastern region severely wounding the local leader of the YCL. The local administration had imposed a curfew indefinitely after the YF cadres severely beat up the YCL leaders. However, Deputy Prime Minister holding the portfolio of Home could not ensure the arrest of the criminals even after his words of not allowing anybody taking law in their hands breaching the rule of law were still fresh in the air.

Deputy Prime Minister holding Home portfolio Bamdev Gautam also said he would make necessary changes in the security departments such as Nepal Police, Armed Police Force and National Investigation under his ministry to expedite in maintaining law and order; would replace the administrative or security staffs failed in their responsibility with new ones. Probably, Deputy Prime Minister Gautam is hinting that he is for removing the high-level staffs appointed or promoted by the former government and then appoint his own men to those positions so that he would be able to run the security administration as he likes.

Prime Minister Prachanda has been telling the people in public that the three main tasks of his coalition government are 1) taking the peace process to a rational conclusion 2) crafting a new people’s constitution and 3) ensuring the fast socio-economic development in the country.

Completing the peace process probably means integrating the People’s Liberation Army into the Nepali Army, setting up a truth commission and making known the whereabouts of missing people disappeared by both the Nepali Army and the CPN-Maoist.

Crafting a new constitution means the Constitution Assembly members formulating a new constitution with the provision for a federal democratic republic of Nepal in other words restructuring the State.

Ensuring the fast socio-economic development means surely removing all the social evils including the discrimination based on gender, caste, region and ethnicity and increasing the incomes of Nepalis as a whole as soon as possible.

Prime Minister Prachanda also said that the Nepalis as well as the members of the international community have both the hope on and suspicion about the coalition government led by the CPN-Maoist; the suspicion was more than hope in both the cases; the government needed the cooperation and the trust of the Nepalis as well as the international community for its success; so, the government would try its best to turn the suspicion about the government into trust in it.

Recently appointed Finance Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai has said that the Ministry of Finance staffs have been working days and nights to prepare a new budget and submit it to the Constituent Assembly-parliament for an approval within mid September; the budget would focus on the poverty alleviation, fast economic growth and sustainable development. He also called a meeting of all donors in Nepal and presented his approach to development to the meeting and sought the cooperation from the donor community on making his approach to development a success. He also repeated his mantra: the public-private partnership for development.

The coalition government ministers would engage in triangular contest. The CPN-Maoist as the major partner in the coalition government tries to have the maximum possible credits from doing the best possible work. The CPN-UML tries to redeem its lost position; however, how the concerned ministers would do remain to be seen. If the history is of any guide then the performance of Bamdev Gautam as the Deputy Prime Minister holding the portfolio of Home in his previous incarnation is not surely enviable. He loved Home portfolio for obvious reasons, as it endowed with power and resources for ensuring to strengthen his party. The MPRF ministers were as new as the Maoist ministers except for one: Bijaya Kumar Gacchadar; their actions would tell the public whether they would work for the benefits of people or of them only.

Concerning the transforming the suspicion about the government into trust in it would be possible if the government would certainly stop all sorts of irregularities happening in the name of the YCL and do everything for the benefits of the people in general.

Regarding the fast economic development, the Finance Minister needed to be ready to turn over all sorts of profit-oriented businesses to the private so that they could make profits at the same time benefit the people. If the Finance Minister would like to see the per capita income growth in double-digit figures then he needed to be ready to scrap the prevailing Labor Act and Rules and replaced with a new business friendly Labor Act and Rules. For the benefits of the labor terminated from the jobs, the government needed to make the provision for the unemployment benefits to such laborers only for the period they did not have a new job. These are easier said than done; however, the new ministers with the new enthusiasm at least needed to try those things.

The monarchists have brought Nepal from the highest level of socio-economic development of that time to the current status of destitute during the 240 years of the monarchical rule. However, the people in the United States of America have brought it from the status of almost nothingness to the current status of the most affluent nation during the 200 years of its democratic administration. So, Nepalis could anticipate living a better life if everything would go democratically in the years to come.

Newly sworn in Ministers:

1. Bamdev Gautam                 Deputy Prime Minister and Home
2. Vishnu Poudel                 Water Resources
3. Ramchandra Jha                 Local Development
4. Kiran Gurung                Forest and Soil conservation
5. Astha Laxmi Shakya            Industry
6. Gopal Shakya                Youth and Sports

1. Pampha Bhusal                 General Administration
2. Hishila Yami                Tourism and Civil Aviation
3. Lekhraj Bhatta                Labor and Transport Management
4. Gopal Kirati                Culture and State Restructuring
5. Janardan Sharma                Peace and Reconstruction
6. Matrika Yadav                Land Reforms and Management

Sadbhavana Party

1. Rajendra Mahato                Commerce and supplies

Janamorcha Nepal

1. Girirajmani Pokharel            Health and Population


1. Ganesh Saha                Science, Technology and environment

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