KATHMANDU, April 7: With just five weeks left before the local polls scheduled for May 14, the leaders of the ruling political parties remain bogged down in disputes over trivial issues instead of concentrating all their efforts on success in the elections.
Holding the local elections has become quite a critical matter because of objections from some Madhes-based parties, but the ruling parties are seriously at loggerheads over relatively trivial matters such as seniority between two deputy prime ministers, the appointment of a new police chief, and introducing the new budget by mid-May.
The dispute over who should be the seniormost deputy prime minister [Bimalendra Nidhi of Nepali Congress or Kamal Thapa of Rastriya Prajatantra Party] has become so serious that the prime minister has failed to even convene a cabinet meeting for the last three weeks.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal appointed Thapa as the third deputy prime minister on March 9, and senior leaders of the ruling parties have been disputing over this ever since. Dahal assured Thapa of seniormost position among the three DPMs after Thapa reportedly threatened to otherwise quit the government. Dahal had to reassure Thapa as without his support the government would be at risk of losing a majority in parliament.
No sooner had Dahal decided to give seniority to Thapa than Bimalendra Nidhi, who was already DPM in the cabinet, announced that he would resign if he is removed from second position in the hierarchy after the prime minister. Prime Minister Dahal's failure to settle the matter in time has distanced him from the major ruling ally Nepali Congress (NC).
The seeds of mistrust between the two major ruling coalition partners are believed to be sown when top leaders from the two sides started to lobby for different candidates for the post of Inspector General of Police. Dahal and NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba gave special importance to the top post in the Nepal Police because three major elections are going to be held by January 2018, among other things.
Though Dahal agreed to promote Jay Bahadur Chand to IGP at the behest of Deuba, the Supreme Court has annulled the appointment, further prolonging the issue.
Appointment of a new police chief has remained unsettled as Dahal has failed to convene a cabinet meeting for three weeks.
Settling Madhes issue
As the rifts among the ruling parties worsen, the government has failed to bring the agitating Madhes-based political parties on board the election process. Even the leaders of the Nepali Congress (NC) have been stating that the consent of the Madhes-based parties is a must for the success of the local polls. But the government side couldn't expedite talks as NC President Deuba has remained rigid in his stance that the polls should be held in a single phase.
When Deuba softened his stance against holding the polls in two phases, a new dispute surfaced within the NC. A section of NC leaders have questioned the motive of the CPN-Maoist Center in floating a new five-point proposal on constitution amendment without consulting the NC. The Maoists proposed addressing the demands of the Madhes-based parties and entrusting a to-be-formed commission with the responsibility of settling the dispute about provincial demarcations.
During a parliamentary party meeting of the NC, party leaders expressed serious dissatisfactions over the prime minister's proposal, said NC lawmakers.
Who should unveil budget?
According to the agreement between the two major ruling partners--NC and Maoist Center--Dahal should hand over government leadership to NC President Deuba within days after the local polls are held.
But Dahal's emphasis on holding the local polls in two phases has been taken in the NC as his ploy to prolong his stay in government. NC leaders have been demanding that Dahal hand over leadership of the government immediately after the local polls scheduled for May 14.
But Finance Minister Krishna Bahadur has already been working on the new budget, said Maoist leaders.
“The incumbent government will unveil the budget, the homework is already underway. Unveiling the budget after the new government comes in is also impractical,” Maoist Center leader Agni Sapkota told Republica.
According to Article 119 of the new constitution, the annual budget must be unveiled in parliament by the end of May.