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AGAINST THE TIDE
  Let Khanal continue  
 

DR RAMESH KHATRY

"No government has ever completed its term of office!" Thus spoke the former king Gyanendra Shah when he imposed his dictatorship on February 1, 2005. His speech then sounded like that of his father Mahendra in 1960. However, Gyanendra hid one fact. Nepali kings, including him, didn’t allow governments to continue once the elected prime minister either grew too popular or threatened their absolute rule.

King Tribhuvan provides the closest parallel to Gyanendra, though Mahendra and Birendra resemble him as well. An interim constitution that prevailed from April 11, 1951 should’ve guided Tribhuvan. When the Rana-Congress cabinet didn’t work and the Rana ministers resigned, Tribhuvan bypassed the choice of the Nepali Congress (NC), BP Koirala and appointed his rival MP Koirala as the new prime minister (PM). The latter’s government didn’t succeed, and Koirala resigned on August 6, 1952, after one year and four months. Then the king started ruling through an advisory council, as his son Mahendra and grandson Gyanendra would do much later. When his government failed, he bypassed the largest party, the NC again, and chose the leader of the newly formed National Democratic Party as his next PM, MP Koirala, for the second time.

This reminds us of Mahendra’s appointing the same person as PM repeatedly during Panchayat days and Gyanendra picking out Sher Bahadur Deuba twice. When Mahendra sacked BP Koirala’s elected, legitimate government on December 1960 after it ruled for 18 months, his various vice-chairmen had similar short durations. Authors Bhuwan Lal Joshi and Leo E Rose (Democratic Innovations in Nepal) indicate that by 1963, Mahendra changed governments three times. Birendra continued Mahendra’s practice of allowing PMs only brief tenures; and our post-1951 history has scores of short-serving executives.

Sadly, our present day parties and their leaders behave exactly like our kings by pulling down governments only too often. After 1990, even NC’s majority government fell before time through internal squabbles and GP Koirala happily got rid of KP Bhattarai, his own colleague. Pushpa Kamal Dahal made the Katawal issue his excuse for his resignation after nine months in power, but he probably bowed down to peer-pressure of his party members who wanted his job. Jhalanath Khanal (JNK) worked with the UML discontented and Maoist tempters for over one year to bring down Madhav Kumar Nepal’s government,

As the PM, JNK has just completed his honeymoon period of 100 days but doesn’t yet have a full cabinet. Minister Jaipuri Gharti has refused to take the oath of office because she doesn’t witness 33 percent ladies in the government. Two other ministers follow her example. They complain that JNK has appointed ministers who have lost elections. When he became the PM, JNK received congratulations only from India and China. No country greeted his foreign minister Upendra Yadav. JNK’s Information Minister Agni Sapkota, guilty of Arun Lama’s murder, sits on his chair uneasily. Contrary to his former pledge, JNK appointed Krishna Bahadur Mahara the home minister, who not long ago asked a Chinese-sounding person Rs 500 million to buy the PM election. No sooner did Mahara enter the home ministry than he started the process to release Maoist criminals from jails throughout the country. Thus JNK and Mahara dash our hopes for an end to impunity.
Changing the PM now makes Nepal the butt of worldwide jokes again. JNK’s government hasn’t yet seen completion, but most ministers by now have their portfolios. Forming another government under a different PM can take another four months or more. Our country has become a laughing-stock long enough.

Hopefully, the Supreme Court will thwart Mahara’s plans. So far JNK hasn’t received the invitation for an official visit to India. He does poorly on the national and international radar.

Thus, calls for JNK to step down have emerged. The last PM Madhav Kumar Nepal shouts the loudest for JNK’s resignation. Nepal’s colleague KP Oli echoes the same. Recently, Dr Baburam Bhattarai too gave a similar hint by using the more gentlemanly language of a "consensus-government". The NC says something likewise, as both Ram Chandra Poudel and Sher Bahadur Deuba itch to become the next PM. However, for various reasons, JNK should continue.

First, changing the PM now makes Nepal the butt of worldwide jokes again. JNK’s government hasn’t yet seen completion, but most ministers by now have their portfolios. Forming another government under a different PM can take another four months or more. Our country has become a laughing-stock long enough. In the past, foreign partners returned home in disgust because we didn’t have a minister ready to put on his/her signature on documents. In the absence of ministers in various departments, our bureaucrats had further excuse to regard each working day a holiday. Similarly, some bills didn’t pass in the parliament because we didn’t have ministers to advocate them. So, for the sake of our government functioning normally, JNK should continue.

Secondly, opting for another PM now can delay constitution writing further. I suggest extension of the CA by brief periods, say three months at a time, so that shorter deadlines will force our parliamentarians to burn the midnight oil, as they’ll do before May 28. JNK can conclude the peace process and complete a democratic constitution, like any that may succeed him. Dr Bhattarai hasn’t yet renounced violence. We have tasted Sher Bahadur Deuba’s lacklustre performance three times before. Ram Chandra Poudel and KP Oli both remain untested. Because the UCPN (Maoist) has propped up JNK’s government, the ex-rebels now have a special responsibility on their shoulders. JNK still serves as Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s poodle, but this shouldn’t alarm us if the NC and the other parties continue to provide the "check and the balance", as they have done so far. These should keep on insisting that the "feudalist" Maoists return properties they have confiscated, convert themselves to a civilian party, disband the YCL/People’s Volunteer Bureau, bring their arms/army under government’s control, and abandon violence.

Out of the secret seven point agreement between UCPN (Maoist) and CPN (UML), no democratic Nepali can agree to the Maoists’ maintaining their army as a separate force or exchanging the PM’s chair in rotation or an imposition of a "pro-people political order" if it means a one party Maoist state. However, the other four points (joint government with as many parties cooperating as possible, Maoists’ support for UML premiership, a code of conduct, a new democratic-inclusive constitution) should cause no alarm. We should remain vigilant that the Maoists and all of us mean the same by words like "democracy," "inclusion," and "federalism". None of us want an ethnicity-based federal state, which could return Nepal to pre-Prithvi Narayan Shah era, when 22 and 24 kingdom-states prevailed.

Two past republican PMs (Dahal and Nepal) wanted the conclusion of the peace process and the new constitution during their times. That didn’t happen. JNK too wants to complete these while he occupies the hot seat and he has an advantage. By hook and crook (the seven point deal), he holds the PM’s fort now. No doubt, a host of others desire the same privilege. If destiny has determined that JNK should conclude the peace process and bring out a democratic constitution, so be it. Other parties and PM-contenders shouldn’t merely hold their breath but also cooperate without compromising on democracy and values we hold dear. Under these conditions, let Khanal continue.
 
Published on 2011-05-22 01:15:48
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Let Khanal Continue
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LATEST COMMENTS
Shouldn´t writer Khatry be elsewhere supporting the judgement day? If the world is ending according to his newly found religion, why he cares so much about what happens in future. [more]
  - juka
Khatry-ji, Have you entered a secret "7-pt" deal with Khanal? If not, why be an apologist for the unapologizable? Too many "killer assumptions" in your write-up as well as that of the commentators before me. Examples:

(1) First, changing the PM now makes Nepal the butt of worldwide jokes again.

No, Nepal has already long been the butt of world-wide jokes since GP threw out KP for no good reason in 1999. Post 2006, it just got worse.

(2) Secondly, opting fo [more]
  - Party Peedit
I resonate with writer let khanal get the full term he deserves and let us all live in harmony and bring in more criminals and enrich the lawmakers who can make billions by selling their red passport. The donors have already placed billions of dollars in the pockets of the law makers [more]
  - purusottam shrestha
Very pragmatic writing. Let one work for his/her complete term and assist the person to achieve a goal. Just not letting other is not going to help the country. Thanks Dr. Khatry for bringing this issue ahead. I request media and civil society groups to make the points loud so that these power politicians will listen them. The country should come out of the dirty game of changing government in every next month and making Nepal a BIG FUN in global arena. [more]
  - Binod Chapagain
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