The government of Pushpa Kamal Dahal has now been in office for two months, which means that it has only around seven more months before Dahal has to make way for Sher Bahadur Deuba, his coalition partner, as prime minister. So Dahal’s government, unless there is some dramatic development, has a short shelf life. The length of Dahal’s tenure as prime minister would have perhaps been irrelevant had his government been serious about resolving the outstanding constitutional issues, the one and only purpose for which it was formed. But it increasingly looks like there will be no major political breakthroughs before the end of Chhath, which is a good month and a half away. The government plan to table a bill to amend the constitution has come to a naught after the prime minister was unable even to convince his coalition partner, Nepali Congress, on the proposed amendments. Kicking the can down the road like this is dangerous. The longer the lingering over constitution amendment, the trickier such amendments will be. As the psychological distance increases, positions on both the sides could harden. The popularity of extremist elements will increase. Meanwhile, the prospect of holding three sets of elections by January, 2018, as mandated by the constitution, will greatly diminish.
But instead of working to create common ground with the protesting Madheshi and Janajati outfits pronto, the perverted priority of Prime Minister Dahal seems to be to anyhow keep his coalition partners happy. He is now in the mood to once again expand the size of his cabinet, this time to adjust eight new state ministers from Congress. After the expansion there will be 39 ministers in Dahal cabinet, way more than the 25 that the new constitution allows. After electing the new President and Speaker in line with the new constitution, the ruling parties would have us believe that the new ministers are being elected under ‘transitional provisions’. This is a blatant lie. You cannot pick and choose among the constitutional clauses. The proposed cabinet expansion rather shows the irresponsibility of our major political parties, the supposed torchbearers of democracy.
Congress President Deuba knows the old tricks of the trade all too well. After all it was Deuba who popularized the culture of appointing the prime minister’s cronies in important state organs back in the 1990s. He also has the distinction of being the first to buy eye-wateringly expensive ‘Prados’ and ‘Pajeros’ to keep his ministers in good humor.
So Prime Minister Dahal follows a well-trodden path, the once revolutionary ‘Prachanda’ thoroughly absorbed into the brand of dirty parliamentary politics that the likes of Deuba first perfected. It is also disheartening to see that despite widespread criticism of the profligate ways of past Congress governments, the oldest democratic party in the country continues to so egregiously disregard public opinion. Otherwise Deuba’s Congress would not have put pressure on Prime Minister Dahal to once again expand his already bloated cabinet. This kind of self-serving behavior of our major parties disappoints the common folks and increases their resentment with the democratic process. It also rather troublingly suggests that timely constitution amendment is not the priority of this government.