Da­hal as the PM

People's Review - - OP-ED - BY DR. S. CHAN­DRASEKHA­RAN

Oli Re­signs:

On the 25th of July, mo­ments be­fore the vot­ing of the No con­fi­dence mo­tion in the As­sem­bly, Oli ten­dered his res­ig­na­tion. The Pres­i­dent had given a week's time to the par­ties to de­cide on the fu­ture Prime Min­is­ter. Oli was bit­ter. He had rea­sons to be bit­ter as both the Nepali Congress and the CPN Maoist Cen­tre- par­tic­u­larly the lat­ter had let him down. In his 110 minute farewell ad­dress he de­scribed the man­ner by which he was top­pled as “un­prin­ci­pled and un­war­ranted.” It is only nine months since Oli took over as prime min­is­ter. The prob­lems he faced were all in­her­ited from his pre­de­ces­sors who now ac­cuse him of in­ef­fi­ciency and non gov­er­nance. At any rate by re­sign­ing and not fight­ing to the end, he has emerged as the hero to many in the val­ley. If there is one con­tri­bu­tion he has made to Nepali pol­i­tics- it could be to the com­plete po­lar­i­sa­tion of Nepali Pol­i­tics into Pa­had-Mad­hesi pol­i­tics. I would also add that an­other no­table con­tri­bu­tion of his would be the ir­repara­ble dam­age he has done to Indo Nepal re­la­tions and in this he was ably as­sisted by In­dian pol­icy mak­ers too. This was un­for­tu­nate as Oli is per­haps the best of the top three tri­umvi­rate- Khanal, Mad­hav Nepal and he. Yet his strong an­tipa­thy to­wards the Mad­he­sis and the Mad­hesi cause is not un­der­stand­able. Oli will also be re­mem­bered as the fa­ther of the at­tempts of Nepal to re­duce its over de­pen­dence on In­dia and make an open­ing to China. While this may not suc­ceed in the near or medium turn, his ef­forts will cer­tainly be seen with ad­mi­ra­tion in the val­ley af­ter the four and a half months of block­ade ex­pe­ri­enced dur­ing the Mad­hesi ag­i­ta­tion.

Da­hal's Chal­lenges:

Da­hal's tasks in the next eleven months of his Prime min­is­ter­ship are many and chal­leng­ing. Since it is only an in­for­mal un­der­stand­ing be­tween him and the Nepali Congress, he may or may not hand over power af­ter eleven months. Even if he does- it is not cer­tain that Nepali Congress will do bet­ter in the last eleven months be­fore the next elec­tions. The present lead­er­ship does not ap­pear to be equal to the task. * First and fore­most, Da­hal's main prob­lem will be to form a “con­sen­sus gov­ern­ment.” The UML is not only not go­ing to co­op­er­ate but ob­struct his ef­forts if any to make con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments to make coali­tion work. * Sec­ond will be the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion-while Da­hal's very pur­pose of as­sum­ing prime min­is­ter ship is to white wash the atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted dur­ing the in­sur­gency ( Deuba will be equally in­ter­ested), the vic­tims of the in­sur­gency who num­ber in thou­sands will not let him get away so eas­ily. * the third and most dif­fi­cult will be to meet the Mad­hesi griev­ances par­tic­u­larly on the de­lin­eation of the fed­eral bound­aries. For mak­ing con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments, the co­op­er­a­tion of UML is a must and may not be forth­com­ing. For that mat­ter many in the rul­ing coali­tion may not them­selves be en­thu­si­as­tic about the amend­ments. The Nepali Congress and the Maoist cen­tre are said to have agreed in prin­ci­ple to find a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion in ex­change for sup­port and cat­e­gor­i­cal as­sur­ances on the re­vi­sion of fed­eral bound­aries on the ba­sis of iden­tity and ca­pa­bil­ity. * The next prob­lem will be con­duct­ing elec­tions at the lo­cal, re­gional lev­els and fi­nally the na­tional level be­fore the manda­tory dead­line to­wards end of Jan­uary 2018. 300 laws will have to be re­vised and an­other 150 en­acted. Prob­lems have al­ready started with the rec­om­men­da­tions of the lo­cal bod­ies re­struc­tur­ing com­mis­sion- that pro­posed 175 for lo­cal wards for Terai, 275 in the hills and 100 in the moun­tain re­gion. The Terain lead­er­ship wants more lo­cal wards in the Terai in pro­por­tion to their pop­u­la­tion. This de­mand in my view is un­rea­son­able as there are many other fac­tors to de­cide on the num­ber. Bud­get al­lo­ca­tion from the cen­tre is not the only one. Hav­ing emerged from the shad­ows as a hero soon af­ter the civil war, one would have ex­pected Da­hal to con­duct him­self as a na­tion wide States­man to pro­vide sta­bil­ity and eco­nomic progress to the coun­try. At one point he was thought to be next only to G.P. Koirala in terms of na­tional lead­er­ship. But he has been a dis­ap­point­ment so far though not a disas­ter as yet. He has been found to be wily, op­por­tunis­tic and fre­quently shift­ing the goal posts to suit his needs. In terms of po­si­tion in the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum also, Da­hal seems to have lost out. His earlier ide­o­log­i­cal po­si­tion has been taken over by Mo­han Baidya and his com­pany and the lib­eral po­si­tion has been hi­jacked by Dr. Bhat­tarai. The cen­trist po­si­tion is al­ready oc­cu­pied by the UML group. It will there­fore be in­ter­est­ing to see whether Da­hal will be able to rein­vent him­self and be­come an all Nepal leader or go back to his old days to lead a small fac­tion of the Maoists with an ide­ol­ogy that is fact be­com­ing ir­rel­e­vant in Nepal.

Nepal Congress:

The Nepali Congress is in no bet­ter po­si­tion and the fault lines be­tween the old Koirala group and that of Deuba are still present and vis­i­ble. There is al­ready a com­pe­ti­tion in get­ting the Home min­is­ter­ship with many in­clud­ing Si­tu­ala vy­ing for the post. There is also the de­mand that the pro­por­tion within the cab­i­net al­lot­ted to the Nepali Congress should be 60 and 40 be­tween the two groups! The com­mon per­cep­tion in the val­ley is that Deuba is too close to In­dia though it is not the real po­si­tion. The younger lead­er­ship is yet to get an op­por­tu­nity to prove it­self.

The Mad­hesi Groups:

The Mad­hesi groups are in a real dilemma. They are not united and they would never be. There is some temp­ta­tion to join the al­liance and at least give out­side sup­port. Will they get any­thing sub­stan­tial be it the Maoists or the Nepali Congress? Highly doubt­ful. Any ac­com­mo­da­tion with the new dis­pen­sa­tion with­out get­ting some vis­i­ble con­ces­sion will be sui­ci­dal for them and will only en­cour­age de­mand for se­ces­sion. Nepal will con­tinue to have po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity for the next few months. Some sub­stan­tial progress can be made in the re­struc­tur­ing and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion in the earth­quake af­fected area if a sin­cere ef­fort is made. Progress can also be achieved in tran­si­tional jus­tice if the lead­ers re­ally want it. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how Da­hal is go­ing to meet all these chal­lenges.

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