Prachanda’s 100 Days: Average Performance
Less expectation, more suspicion and apathy made up the salient features of general public perception when Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda was elected as the Prime Minister on August 3. Now he has passed 100 days in office. And on November 11, as a ritual, Prime Minister Prachanda came to the people with a list of works performed by his government in those 100 days. Except for a few, most of the points included in the list are not related to the people’s daily lives. Because of this, what he presented in the press conference which was broadcast live by many TV channels and other electronic media may not have been much attractive to the general people. This is also because he has yet to be successful in bringing the disgruntled Madhesi parties on board in the smooth implementation of the constitution. Moreover, except for the energy ministry, which has raised the hope that the load shedding hours in the upcoming dry season will be far less than in the previous years, no other ministry has performed so well. Definitely, there is no apprehension of conflict between the Pahadis and the Madhesi as in the time of PM Prachanda’s predecessor KP Sharma Oli who had irritated the Madhesi leaders by his sharp tongue. But there is another apprehension that the present government might fulfill undue demands of the Madhesi leaders such as related to naturalized citizens. At the background of PM Prachanda’s visit to India and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Nepal, people are watchful whether the present government is not giving due priority to relations with the northern neighbor, China. Overall, the performance of the government seems to be perceived as average.
Lately, PM Prachanda has started to complain that he has been cornered by various actors and factors. He has overtly complained about social media users for making baseless blames and distorting and swaying public perception. That is true to a large extent. But he should also understand that social media users, as human beings, are as political as any non-users. Whatever comments are made should be taken as voices of the opposition. Moreover, if his government does something good, perhaps even the opposition social media users will either praise it or talk about some other things instead. It is the government’s wrong decisions or lapses which are made larger or louder in the social media. Equally important is the fact that social media has also emerged as a political battleground. Even those who otherwise seem to be neutral make politically charged comments in their social media pages simply because it is also a part of their personal life.
No doubt, the government has performed far better in some areas. It has increased the grant to the earth quake victims. It has provided the first installment of the grant to almost 90 percent quake victims. But people have yet to build houses, because they have not received the full amount. Therefore, it does not matter what per cent of the victims got the grants, what matters is how many people got their damaged houses built. And in 100 days no government could have performed so well as to provide grants to all and see that people have made houses! But the speed of reconstruction has been slower than it was just after the formation of the government. Previous Oli government had not provided grant to even 10 per cent victim. But it had an outstanding mileage due to its stand in the face of Indian blockade.
One of the most important tasks of the present government has been to ensuring acceptance of the constitution from all. A year has elapsed since the new constitution was promulgated, but efforts to ensure its ownership by the Madhes-based parties are still going on. This issue is very critical, the country has already faced blockade over it, let alone the over six-month long strikes of the Untied Democratic Madhesi Front. There is hope that PM Pranchand will be able to bring the Madhesi parties on board. But he also has to take the main opposition CPN-UML into confidence because addressing demands of the UDMF requires amendment to the constitution, and without the UML consent, constitution amendment is next to impossible. PM Prachanda has said the government is likely to register a constitution amendment proposal within a couple of days. If he succeeds this bid without much protest from the people, it will be a milestone achievement, particularly for constitution implementation. It will pave the way for three levels of elections to be held within 14 months. If this issue lingers on, counting of the days of the government will start. This is the situation at present the government has faced within its 100 days. If the present government fails to bring the Madhes-based parties on board constitution implementation, Prachanda’s second term as the PM will be a failure because what matters is the result, not the process or obstacles.
There is one more thing that the present government must do. It is about translating agreements made by the previous government with China into action. Because of much focus on maintaining relations India, and this was needed due to various factors given the present political situation, the government has been criticised for tilting towards the southern neighbour. Once the demands of the Madhes based parties are met, the government must solely focus on implementing agreements signed with China. Despite tall talks, the Oli government had not prepared any necessary proposals regarding the agreements. Now the government should start preparing the proposals so that there is such a situation that when there is local election, PM Prachanda also has the chance to inaugurate construction work of the railway between Nepal and China. If these two things, local body election and inauguration of railway construction, can take place in the next six or seven months, even the most quarrelsome social media users will find no word to shout at.