Two weeks after UML Chairman K P Sharma Oli made a resounding comeback with strong parliamentary support, his cabinet is serving with only six ministers. Despite the positive message the new government has sent by inducing persons like Yubaraj Khatiwada and Lal Babu Pandit as ministers, the vital task of giving full shape to the cabinet is taking unexpectedly long time. Oli’s selection of ministers like Khatiwada and Pandit has raised hopes among the people though their real test has only started. Unless this government takes full shape and starts working on a war footing on a wide range of issues such as governance, development and prosperity, the initial euphoria might fast turn into a source of disillusionment. This is why cabinet expansion should be taken up with urgency.
Understandably, cabinet expansion is not an easy fix. The left alliance took days to settle power-sharing issue between UML and Maoist Center—the two constituent parties of left alliance—which together have won nearly two-thirds majority in six out of seven provincial assemblies and the federal parliament. Now this matter has been sorted out. As of this writing, negotiations between left alliance and Upendra Yadav-led Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN) are underway and they are expected to reach a final deal on latter’s entry into the government. Participation of FSFN in Oli’s government will send message of unity in Nepal’s plains. Thus this is a worthy initiative. However, negotiations remain stuck over constitution amendment, a complicated issue. The two sides must be flexible over the issue and agree on a framework that will be acceptable to wider section of Nepali population from mountains, hills and Tarai plains. Sticking to hard line, we are afraid, will further stall cabinet expansion.
The left parties are yet to complete cabinet expansion in most of the provinces—except in Province 3. This again won’t send a good message. These are not usual times in Nepali politics. We are experimenting with federal system for the first time and the country has a whole host of issues to address—from the development, to framing of laws to delivery of basic services. Delay in cabinet expansion will keep all these vital issues pending. Given the urgency of the task, ruling parties will have to work from the day one in making decisions and executing them. Some ministers in central government—such as Pandit and Khatiwada—seem to be working to that end. This is appreciable. But more ministries will have to work in the same pace. This is why it is extremely important for left alliance leaders and parties which are aspiring to join the government at the federal and provincial levels to sort out pending issues to give all governments—federal and provincial—full shape. People have a lot of expectations from new set of leaders at the helm of affairs. They need to work in way that meets these expectations. As Prime Minister Oli has repeatedly said in public, this government has no excuse at all in delaying much needed changes. People want to see a full-fledged government working with full of energy.