New ministers in the cabinet
Ending months of speculations regarding who will be in and who will be out in the cabinet, Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli inducted nine new faces in his cabinet while bidding bye to as many number on Thursday afternoon. Cabinet reshuffle was the talk of the town for many months but it had not materialized mainly due to differences within the ruling Nepal Communist Party as to who should actually be relieved of duty. There have been mixed reactions over Thursday’s decision. People seem to be unhappy over removal of Gokarna Bista allegedly under pressure from interest groups. Contrary to speculations, Gokul Baskota (who has presented himself as the fiery critic of the media) and Bina Magar, who is thought of delaying Melamchi project, or at least not facilitating its timely completion, have been retained. In a parliamentary democracy, cabinet reshuffle is the jurisdiction of the PM and there is little to comment about it. But we had hoped, even urged in this space, that the reshuffle should be meant for picking candidates with proven competence to deliver, rather than for balancing factionalism within the party. The latter principle seems to have prevailed. Besides, with the reshuffle, the cabinet is less inclusive in terms of gender balance. There are only two women in the 25-member cabinet now.
Thus, there is not much expectation among people regarding this new development. Only minister, whom the people look up to, seems to be Ghanashyam Bhusal, the leader who has advocated for socialism throughout his career and who has been vocal critic of misgovernance. People will closely watch what he, as the minister for Agriculture and Livestock Development, will do to revitalize Nepal’s agriculture sector that faces multitude of challenges. Bhusal has pledged not to come under influence of greed and fear. Likewise, many new ministers have promised to work with utmost honesty and sincerity. Minister for Women, Children and Senior Citizens Parbat Gurung has vowed to bring social change. Lekharaj Bhatta, Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supply, has promised to promote industries. Hridayesh Tripathi, Minister for Federal Affairs and General Administration, has vowed to uproot anomalies in local levels. Rameshwar Raya Yadav, who succeeded Gokarna Bista as a Minister for Labor, Employment and Social Security, has promised to make foreign employment safer, better managed and dignified. These ministers will be judged on the basis of how well they will deliver on these promises. It is the performance and delivery that ultimately counts. Anyone can make promises.
But what the people will watch now is how and whether the government will do things differently. One of the reasons attributed to underperformance of the government was ministers not working as per the aspirations of people. The Prime Minister does not have that excuse now. He should be able to get his ministers—those inducted in 2017 and the new entrants—work on war footing. When the government cannot function well, all these promises the new ministers have made and the very act of cabinet reshuffle will prove to be futile, or mere act of distributing ministerial portfolios to the leaders of his and his party’s choice.