Challenge Upon Challenge
With the ouster of the Oli-led government, a new government under the leadership of CPN-Maoist Centre chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda has been installed. It is Prachanda’s second innings after assuming the reins of government eight years ago. His first innings as Prime Minister of the Republic of Nepal failed miserably due to his infatuation with power. Prachanda has, however, ascribed his failure as prime minister to lack of experience.
Much water has flowed under the bridge since then. The country has got many prime ministers but none of them have done anything concrete to transform the country. However, they have formulated many plans designed to lead the country on the path of development. Such development plans range from hydropower to railways to the country’s own shipping line.
The most ambitious plan seems to be one that aims at upgrading the present LDC status of the country to the status of developing country by 2022. During the tenure of KP Sharma Oli, many plans were formulated and some developments also took place, especially on the trade and transit front. At a time when the country was under a trade siege at the hands of India, some important treaties were signed with China. The treaties relating to the import of petroleum products from China and construction of railways from Kerung up to Lumbini hold great significance. However, the implementation of the treaties is still in the womb of time.
KP Sharma Oli also broached several plans such as supply of LP gas to every household through pipelines, elimination of loadshedding within one year, production of electricity from wind and operation of our own shipping line. For such airy-fairy plans, he had to be the laughing stock.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has many challenges and irons in the fire to tackle and accomplish. He has, however, tried to win the hearts of the Madhesi leaders, who were indignant with KP Sharma Oli for not addressing their demands relating to some provisions encapsulated in the new constitution. The five-month-long Madhes agitation on the coattails of India, aimed at causing disruption of the supply situation across the country, got a kick in the teeth when the locals living on the border and the Indians living across the border forced the agitators to flee the scene in February 2016. One or two days later, the Madhesi leaders called off their agitation when they saw no means ahead to continue with the agitation.
At the same time, the Oli-led government tried to take credit for ending the agitation. In fact, the government did not play even a small role in bringing the agitation to a grinding halt.
The government has already signed a three-point demand with the Madhesi parties in order to fulfil their demands. But as the demands are concerned with some constitutional provisions, it is necessary to amend the constitution through a two-thirds majority. It will, however, be judicious to fulfill only the genuine demands. Fulfilling every demand, whether judicious or not, just for the sake of gaining support of the Madhesi parties to stay in power will do the country more harm than good.
It is reported that Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal will give continuity to the plans and programmes formulated by the Oli-led government. Yes, good plans need to be given continuity. But it will be foolish on the part of the government to implement the airy plans such as supply of piped gas to every household and operating ships in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
The Oli-led government completely failed to manage the supply situation during the Indian blockade. A handful of people took advantage of the adverse situation at the cost of the common people. And the then government also sided with the black marketeers and dishonest businessmen. The impact of the situation is still haunting the market. The prices of most of the commodities have not come down yet. That is why, the rate of inflation is now hovering around 11 per cent. Had the government taken strong action against the black marketeers and unscrupulous businessmen during the blockade, perhaps the price level would not have been as alarming as it is today.
Similarly, the Oli-led government proved to be inefficient in providing relief for the earthquake victims and in the rehabilitation and reconstruction drive. As a result, many earthquake victims are still chafing under misery. It seems their tent life will not come to an end any time soon.
The pressing need of the government is to arrange for the basic needs - food, clothing and shelter - of the common people. The people do not need tram-cars, monorails, metros, railways and ships right now. They want their basic needs fulfilled. The earthquake victims who have been leading a tent life since the earthquake of last year want shelter. Although the process of distributing grants for reconstruction is going on, it is snail-paced ad nauseam. Therefore, the prime job of the government should be lifting the earthquake and other (flood and landslide) victims out of their miserable and deplorable condition.
On the other hand, the implementation of the constitution needs to be accelerated. For this, relevant laws need to be drawn up and elections to the local, provincial and federal governments need to be held. Holding the elections is not as easy as peeling peas. The contentious issues of the constitution need to be resolved first. The government has taken a positive attitude towards sorting out the differences of the Madhesi parties vis-à-vis some provisions of the constitution.
However, the life of the government is already numbered. It will last just nine months as per the agreement between the CPN-Maoist Centre and the Nepali Congress. The understanding between these coalition partners must be that the Nepali Congress will pick up from where the CPN-Maoist Centre has left at the end of nine months.
Anyway, this is a golden opportunity for the CPN-Maoist Centre to prove its mettle by working in the interests of the country and the people. The people have not forgotten how badly they fared when Prachanda assumed the reins of government for the first time eight years ago. It would be germane to note that one of the prominent leaders of the CPN-Maoist Centre has warned that if the Maoist-helmed government cannot work well this time, it may be completely obliterated from the politics of the country. So the government must take it as a litmus test rather than a hollow threat.