Blame-game over Province Capitals

 Narayan Upadhyay

 

 The political parties and the government have not yet been able to forge consensus to designate the temporary capitals of the provinces and appoint the chiefs of provinces, despite their "continued efforts to do so." The Sher Bahadur Deuba government is lately caught up in a dilemma over the designation of the temporary capitals and the appointment of the province chiefs, though his government has been trying with all its might to find political consensus on these matters.

 

The government appears to be fearful about future backlash from the people and some party leaders, if it singlehandedly designates the temporary capitals and appoint the chiefs. Earlier, Prime Minister Deuba's hands were tied by the threats from the Prime Minister-in-waiting, KP Sharma Oli. Oli had warned that the newly elected provincial assembly members of his party would not take oath from the chiefs appointed by the present government. He also warned that his next government would scrap the appointments of chiefs made by the government, forcing PM Deuba to seek consensus on the matters.

 

Dilemma

 

As the government fails to find consensus, it faces a dilemma in resolving the problems. The major political parties - the ruling Nepali Congress and the Left Alliance - don't seem to engage in the "controversial move" of any kind.  A type of blame game has thus started among these parties over the issue of announcing the capitals and appointing the province chiefs. The ruling Nepali Congress has blamed that the two communist parties which have won majority in the elections have not cooperated with the government in forging consensus to appoint the temporary capitals and chiefs.

 

Lately, the Congress appears to be buying time in getting consensus from the parties of the Left Alliance to deal with the issue. On the other hand, the two communist parties are of the view that the government must announce the name of the capitals and provincial chiefs, because the task to name the provincial capitals and the appointment of chiefs was the sole responsibility of the government.

 

It seems that the communist parties do not want to share the responsibility of designating the provincial capitals and of appointing the governors. A few days ago, CPN-Maoist Centre ministers had resigned en masse. These ministers were earlier turned the ministers without portfolio by the Prime Minister Deuba after the ruling coalition partner their party had forged alliance with the CPN-UML to contest the parliamentary and provincial assembly elections jointly. Even after they lost their ministerial portfolios, they remained in the government for about four months citing that they remained in the government to ensure that the two phase elections. Now, all of sudden they have resigned, which compelled the government spokesperson to blame them that these ministers have resigned as they do not want to share the responsibility with the present cabinet for designating the capitals and appointing the chiefs.

 

If the government spokesperson's accusation has some rationale in it, then it makes one thing clear- no party at present want to share the "burden" of naming the capitals of the provinces by going against the desire and demand of the locals and their own leaders who represent their respective parties from these provinces. The pressure on the parties appears to be tremendous, which has discouraged them in naming the capitals on their own.

 

Despite the government's willingness to designate the provincial capitals and to appoint the chiefs, it failed to do so after coming under tremendous pressure from the people of several provinces and its own leaders who have been representing the provinces, who have wanted to their towns and cities to be name as the ad-hoc capitals.

 

Earlier, when the news that the government was ready to designate certain towns and cities as the temporary capitals had spread through media, people in several provinces had staged protests, demonstration and general strikes for several days, demanding with the government that their towns and cities be declared as the capitals. The local residents of Dhankuta, Dharan, Itahari, Dipayal, Dang, Butwal and many others had staged long protests.

 

These protests had compelled the government not to name any town or city as the provincial capitals on its own. The government has sought consensus from the major parties. However, the two communist parties, which are soon going to form the new government, too appear to be fearful of the backlash if they give green light to the government.  It appears that the ruling Nepali Congress does not want to become a "scapegoat" by naming the capitals on its own, while the two communist parties too appear reluctant to be part of the controversial move.

 

A few days ago, the government floated the idea of making Kathmandu as the temporary capitals of all the provinces with a view to facilitate the first meeting of the provincial assembly and administering the oath of office to the newly election provincial lawmakers. However, the idea did not clicked because the move would undermine the very notion of federalism. The task to designate even the temporary capitals of the seven provinces and to appoint the chief of the provinces is easier said than done. As the political parties continue to remain non-cooperative and non-committal on the issue, the designation of temporary capitals and appointment of chief look all the more difficult.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tortuous task

 

Despite the political parties and the government's dilly-dallying, there is no escape for them in designating the capitals and in appointing the chiefs. This has to be done to facilitate the new provincial assembly to take shape. Constitutionally, the provincial assemblies have the rights to designate their permanent capitals. The political parties think that once they designate a town as the temporary capital, the same town would be made the permanent capital which might unleash the wrath of locals of other towns and cities that aspire to become the capitals of their respective provinces.

 

 

The task of designating the provincial capitals is very tortuous one at present. For the parties, there is no other way than to form a consensus in declaring the temporary capitals and leave the task of the announcing permanent ones to the respective assemblies of the provinces.

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