New Coalition Government Challenge Of Populism
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda the other day asked the secretaries of the ministries to keep emphatic and single-minded focus on delivering services to the people to ensure that the ordinary citizens could feel the presence, relevance and exclusively appreciate his leadership as the executive head of the new coalition government that has been forged recently by outvoting the UML-led government. The prime minister also told the officials to come up with select key actions on behalf of their respective ministries that could be implemented instantly to redress the grievances and compelling needs of the people.
Mincing no words on the challenges facing the government led by him that is yet to take shape, he reportedly admitted that his government had a very limited time, so he was bound to deliver results every day on info graphics. In a veiled tone of warning, he told the bureaucrats that they would face action if they failed to act and deliver to meet the emergent challenges of the day.
The Prime Minister has indeed identified six priorities of his government that range from implementation of the constitution by taking all the disgruntled groups into confidence, reconstruction and rehabilitation of the quake-hit districts to effective service delivery through good governance and institutional integrity. These priorities do not appear very much different from the objectives and priorities fixed in the budget speech of the previous government, in which the Maoists were the key and pivotal coalition partner.
The major objective mentioned in the budget statement has been set forth as the implementation of the constitution by formulating the necessary laws. And for this purpose, laws of the federal, provincial and local level will have to be enacted. Moreover, the budget speech makes a commitment to create an administrative structure at the provincial level, constitute commissions for guaranteeing the fundamental rights of the citizens and give priority to the progressive implementation of the directive principles and policies of the state. Similarly, when it comes to post-quake reconstruction and rehabilitation-related priority of the budget, there is no option for the present government but to follow the same budget objectives and priority.
Furthermore, as this is a very urgent and critical subject involving humanitarian sensibilities, the new coalition government, in which the Nepali Congress has replaced the UML as the lead partner, needs to take it up as a matter of urgent priority. What can be done by the new coalition government headed by Prachanda is to accelerate the process of delivering support to the quake-hit people in an efficient and effective manner.
The previous Oli-led government had drawn heavy criticism for its lacklustre performance in mitigating the pains of the quake-hit people who had been thrown out of their homes by the devastation wrought upon by the natural calamity. Even within the valley itself, the quake victims are yet to be served with the basic necessities. They are seen languishing in makeshift tents in the rain-soaked open fields. In fact, this humanitarian failure needs to be corrected as a matter of serious urgency, for which the new government should be serious and sensitive enough.
The Nepali Congress had launched salvoes against the UML-led coalition government for its alleged tardiness and laxity to handle the quake disaster. The relevance and rationale of replacing the Oli-led coalition will in fact be vindicated only when the NC-dominated coalition government, led by Prachanda, fares better in reconstruction and recovery of the 14 districts severely affected by the earthquake.
In fact, as admitted by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, the new coalition government headed by him cannot afford to formulate and set ambitious objectives with far reaching consequences because, apart from others, some populist schemes and measures announced in the budget presented by the Oli-led government can hardly be reversed. Moreover, the coalition governments, by their very constitutive nature, are fragile, unstable and unsustainable, given the unprincipled hankering by the political parties for power.
To make the matter more obvious and clear, there was an unconcealed material interest of the incumbent prime minister himself and his party behind the breakdown of the UML-led coalition to seize an opportunity to rule and strengthen one’s own organisational network. Whether one agrees or not, the political party – Maoist (Unity Centre) that Prime Minister Dahal has led for over two decades and was responsible for organising a violent conflict against the state - is faced with a very delicate situation. Organisationally, the party is more or less in tatters as it has witnessed several rounds of fragmentations and splits.
The party rank and file is frustrated and discontented. Since the party has to face the electoral test and prove its rationale and strength by arresting its sliding decline in the local, provincial and federal elections that are due to be conducted in succession in the following years, the incumbent coalition led by Prachanda is compelled to bank upon the schemes that make the ordinary voters happy and help revive the sagging morale of the party rank and file.
The process of both consolidation and fragmentation has affected the political parties in Nepal, and the Maoist (Unity Centre) has been severely hit by both splits and consolidation. The coming of a sizeable section of the party leaders and functionaries back to the party’s fold was an encouraging development whereas the challenge presented by Dr. Babu Ram Bhattarai when he formed the Naya Shakti Party after giving up has been a jolt to it.
The existential challenge haunts Prachanda as a successful politician who safelanded the party and the politics of violence into that of peace. The coming few months will portend the turn of direction – whether it will tilt to the direction of success or failure.