The plot thickensThe way they have taken the fight to the provinces is an affront to political culture.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli couldn't be more honest about his intent to jeopardise the political system if it is not to his liking when he said, last week, that if he were to be cornered more, he would use his hatchet skills on the provinces as well. The dissolution of Parliament on Sunday, December 20, Oli hinted, was just a dress rehearsal, and that the full show of political brinkmanship was yet to come.
But Oli isn't the only politician with a hatchet, is he? The domino effect of Oli's political misadventures and the Nepal Communist Party's fragmentation is now unravelling in the provinces, with no-confidence motions on the cards. On Sunday, 37 members of Province 1 who have aligned with the Pushpa Kamal Dahal faction of the ruling party signed a no-confidence motion against Chief Minister Sherdhan Rai. They have proposed Bhim Acharya to be the next chief minister of the province.
The 93-member provincial assembly has 67 members from the ruling Nepal Communist Party—51 from the erstwhile Communist Party of Nepal (UML) and 16 from the erstwhile Maoist Centre. The chief minister has said he is confident enough to face the no-confidence motion and come out the winner with a majority, but the way out of this impasse may not be that easy.
Rai is not the only chief minister facing rough waters ahead. A no-confidence motion was filed against Bagmati Province Chief Minister Dormani Poudel on Friday. It seems to be just a matter of time and political calculations—and miscalculations—before the chief ministers' legitimacy is put to test even as the opposition party, the Nepali Congress, is set to become an unlikely kingmaker. Gandaki Province Chief Minister Prithvi Subba Gurung has already called for a truce, all too aware that his legitimacy is certain to be put to the test as well in the near future.
While the making and breaking of governments—federal as well as provincial—is part of the political process, the way the two hostile factions of the ruling Nepal Communist Party have taken their fight to the provinces following the mess-up in the federal government is an affront to political culture. It is as if they have taken the idea of decentralisation more seriously than necessary, to the extent of pushing federalism off the track.
It is not so much a question of constitutional validity as it is of political culture. The question that is of utmost importance today is whether they will show any concern for federalism if they don’t care to uphold the constitution on which it is based, or, whether they will find a way in which they can undo the undoing of democracy in the provinces and make one last ditch attempt to uphold the spirit of federalism that some of them fought for.
The parties that forced the last monarch of the country out of Narayanhiti Palace are intent upon committing the same political crimes he was accused of—disregarding the life, liberty and happiness of citizens, choking democracy and wrecking the political culture. It's high time the political parties and their leaders remembered that the game of political brinkmanship they are so eager to play is not on the agenda in the manifestos they handed out to the people in the last elections.