The Sluggish Pace Of Govt

Kushal Pokharel



The government formed under the leadership of Nepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba was expanded this week. It took one and half months for Prime Minister Deuba to expand his cabinet owing to dispute within his party. In absence of ministers to look after important portfolios for a long time, the public was unable to figure out whether there was the presence of the government in the country because the everyday problems affecting the lives of the ordinary people have been overlooked, let alone the solutions.  
Obviously, it was more frustrating that the government was not given a full shape for a long time. Even Maoist-Centre chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda whose party is a major coalition partner in the cabinet had also expressed his dissatisfaction over the delay in expanding the cabinet. Prachanda had reportedly asked PM Deuba to expand the cabinet just by inducting ministers from the Maoist-Centre if he was unable to pick ministers from the NC.
However, this difficulty was overcome by extending the cabinet after a long hiatus. Prime Minister Deuba expanded the cabinet by inducting 19 new ministers from the NC, Maoist-Centre and other small parties. While this should have been easy to handle if there had been a systemic effort to select ministers, the PM seemed to have found it increasingly difficult. With growing factionalism in the parties and the rise of the unhealthy culture of nepotism and sycophancy, balancing the power equation has remained troublesome in all major parties.

Even the past prime ministers had utterly failed in expanding their cabinet on time. Owing to serious contestations over power and resource control, the  practice of appointing the suitable candidates for the post of ministers has always been controversial. There are many instances of an ineligible person taking the driver’s seat of a cabinet in Nepal. Like  a economics illiterate has become the Finance Minister in Nepal. Whether it’s the industry or the tourism minister, there is no uniform and scientific yardsticks for appointing the political leaders as ministers. Ministers are in most cases the loyal cadres of his/her influential party leader. Running after the power centres is the only way of getting into the drivers’ seat in politics. Even the aspect of substantial contribution made for the party has been ignored.
Instead of referring to meritorious criteria of selection like the technical knowledge, subject expertise and other soft skills such as communication and persuasion, the deciding factor in the selection of ministers has been the nexus between the party leaders and the prime minister within the party. Similarly, the matter of dividing the cabinet portfolios among the various sub-factions of the party internally and to other coalition parties outside has reigned supreme to decide the course of ministers. Consequently, many ministries have fallen short of executive head to provide the general policy guidelines. Also, the monitoring and supervision of development activities have been adversely affected by this vaccum.
The Deuba government has already come under a great deal of criticism for offering no public respite to immediate problems such as road and sewage management, environment pollution control etc. Entrusted with the task of conducting the federal and provincial polls this year, there is a stiff task ahead of the government which is still in the process of making. Ranging from the task of endorsing various bills in the parliament to materialise the election to forging a national consensus among the ruling and agitating forces is looking like a hard nut to crack for the current PM. With a demeaning image of an incompetent PM, some remarkable initiatives will be important for Deuba to wipe this out from the public mind.
The problem of the new PM has been exacerbated by mounting criticism within his own party for his leadership style. Many NC leaders have vehemently criticised Deuba for his inappropriate policy leading to shameful defeats in the two round of local level elections. The slipping position of the party from first to second has been considered as a matter of grave concern. In this regard, the Central Committee leaders were of the opinion that the president should take the responsibility for this failure and learn from the shortcomings or mistakes made in the past. Disenchanted by the autocratic leadership style of the PM, even his close aides have reportedly started speaking against his demeanour.
Equally pertinent is the issue of the Constitution amendment. The PM has now clearly mentioned of his intention to move ahead the bill of amendment with the guts to face the voting result. With the CPN-UML at odds over this matter, it is very unlikely that the amendment will be passed by a two thirds majority in the parliament. Even the agitating forces know this, but they are in no mood of sticking away from their rhetorical stances of defying the Constitution which in their eyes is non-inclusive and discriminatory further entrenching the central  authority and negating the genuine concerns of the socially and economically marginalised and disadvantaged communities.
The PM is once again under serious scrutiny for his leadership and governance approach. If he fails to deliver this time, it might be a serious setback in his political career. With repeated rounds of failure as the PM, Deuba needs to take a strong leadership improving his values of integrity, transparency and accountability.
Forming a council of ministers comprised of committed leaders with zeal to contribute for the betterment of the nation, the PM needs to seriously give momentum to the election friendly activities and bring the agitating forces into the negotiation table.  More importantly, the PM himself needs to demonstrate these values by action.

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