Prime Minister resigns
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has done the right thing by voluntarily stepping down and clearing the way for a new government. After the withdrawal of other important stakeholders in the ruling coalition—CPN (Maoist Center), MJF (Democratic), RPP—his government was in a clear minority. In this situation, if PM Oli had decided to cling on citing constitutional ambiguity on government change, it could have invited another protracted crisis.
Thankfully, he didn’t opt for this misguided course. Now we hope that a new government can soon take shape. Ideally, it should be a government of national unity. This does not mean all parties in parliament need to participate in it. It rather means that the new government should be formed on the basis of maximal political consensus, including a clear-cut prior agreement on amendment of the new constitution to meet the legitimate demands of the protesting Madheshis and Janajati groups. If there can be such an agreement among at least the four major political forces—Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, CPN (Maoist Center) and Madheshi parties—it is really immaterial which parties join the new government.
The inability of PM Oli to win the confidence of the protesting parties and to broaden the acceptability of the new constitution has to be his biggest failure. Lack of desired progress on post-quake reconstruction, runaway inflation, rampant black-marketing—were other indications of governance failure. Among PM Oli’s biggest strength was his refusal to bow down before overt Indian bulling as seen in the blockade of our southern border points, the country’s lifeline. To his credit PM Oli also sought to diversify Nepal’s trade away from India; it is not in the country’s interest to rely on one single country for virtually everything. This is why even though people had many misgivings with PM Oli, many nonetheless continued to support his government. But even after the lifting of the blockade, PM Oli and his UML party continued to whip up anti-India nationalism, seemingly to paper over their own deficiencies. Governance suffered some more; talks with the protesting parties were put off indefinitely.
In the nine months of his government, Prime Minister Oli did little to take the protesting parties into confidence. It is true that the Madheshi parties were also unreasonable at times, for instance on their insistence that there be clear commitment on two east-west Madhesh-only provinces as a precondition for talks. At times it appeared that the Madheshi parties too were uninterested in meaningful talks. But the rigid stand of UML, particularly on redrawing federal boundaries, was also a big hindrance. It didn’t help that Oli, even before he became prime minister, had cultivated a distinctly “anti-Madheshi” image. In the final reckoning, PM Oli, despite promising so much (particularly on the foreign front),
managed to deliver little. In fact, his government, like its many predecessors, seemed intent only on milking the state for the benefit of governing parties. Such self-serving attitude will take the country nowhere. It is again clear that only if all four of the major political forces come together can the country find an outlet. It would be most unfortunate if this most recent exercise of government change didn’t translate into meaningful political gains, including a broadly acceptable constitutional settlement.