The main opposition Nepali Congress has given the impression that it is presenting itself assertively in the parliament, raising public concerns, questioning the government of its wrongdoings and failure to ensure good governance. At the first meeting of winter session, Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba spoke about government’s failure to book the perpetrators of Nirmala Panta’s rape and murder and rising price of commodity goods. On Sunday, Congress lawmakers obstructed the House proceedings accusing Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara of not allowing time for Congress leaders to raise legitimate questions. The party has now started to speak vocally against multi-billion-rupee corruption in the procurement of two wide-body aircraft of Nepal Airlines Corporations (NAC). Congress chief has instructed his leaders to raise strong voice in the parliament against corruption and irregularities. The party has decided to stand with Dr Govinda KC’s demand for medical reforms and press the government to pass Medical Education Bill in line with various agreements reached with him in the past. It rightly opposed swearing-in of alleged mastermind of Tikapur massacre Resham Chaudhary as a lawmaker. Congress is mulling forming what it calls a ‘shadow cabinet’ to monitor every activity of the government.
It is yet to be seen how long will opposition party be able to keep this momentum but it must also take care of more issues. First, it should come up with its position on critical issues related to transitional justice mechanism. Apparently, ruling party is dwelling on a political mechanism to address transitional justice cases instead of resolving them through Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP). What is the position of Congress on this? Nepali Congress, which has a legacy of fighting for democracy, should not allow the government to compromise on basic norms of human rights, freedom of expression and justice. Second, there are reports of lawmakers (including those from Congress) taking in money for house rent even though they have their own houses in Kathmandu. A number of lawmakers were found misusing the funds meant for their personal staff. Congress leaders were not seen to oppose this. Most important of all, the government is talking about amending constitutional provisions related to sensitive issues of citizenship and provincial boundary. What does Congress have to say about it?
After the political change of 2007, Nepali political parties made it a point to acquiesce if the government decision helped promote their vested interests. Opposition party never raised question over open misuse of state funds. In fact, there was open collusion between the government parties and those in ‘opposition’ in irregularities and wrongdoings. This is the right time for Congress to redefine the role of opposition. Being in opposition bench in Nepal has often meant obstructing the parliamentary proceedings for days even for unjustified cause and organizing strikes and shutdowns. CPN-UML and Maoist Center (now unified as NCP) and Nepali Congress have all been guilty of this act. Congress should not resort to such activities. The focus of Congress and its leaders should be on holding government accountable, raising vital public concerns and provide alternatives to government moves while doing so. In the last few days, the party has given indication that it is headed toward this route. Keep up the momentum.