The magical, musical chairIt’s a crisp Saturday morning and you probably don’t want to spend time speculating what political course the country is heading towards next; but the country is at a crossroads yet again.
It’s a crisp Saturday morning and you probably don’t want to spend time speculating what political course the country is heading towards next; but the country is at a crossroads yet again. The ruling coalition has put forth the much-awaited constitution amendment bill, but the main opposition is resolved on foiling it both through the streets and the Parliament. The Madhes-based forces are still reluctant of taking ownership of the bill, while the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, which will play a vital role if the bill is put to vote, is dallying.
So what is next for our nation that seems to always be in transition, one way or another? Maybe the whole saga can be dismissed as yet another power tussle between our political forces. Haven’t our leaders risen to power because they are specialists at manipulation in the first place? Isn’t their primary drive a shot at the magical chair at Singha Durbar and not the welfare of the country anyways?
Under that pretext, allow me to share a few predictions on how these forces—Nepali Congress, Maoist Centre, CPN-UML, Madhes-based parties and the RPP—will play out their cards in the days ahead.
At this point of time, UML, as the main opposition, has grabbed the most attention. UML chairman KP Sharma Oli proclaims himself to be the only ‘nationalist’ leader in the country; a leader who sees the economy coming to a virtual standstill as an opportunity to galvanise support for his own platform—a bargaining chip for future elections. Chiya charcha has it that former PM Madhav Nepal too is hopeful of leading the government by pushing the need for a consensus government among major forces, if the three-tiered elections are to take place. On the other hand, party stalwart Bamdev Gautam has already proclaimed on television that he is the next prime minister in line from the UML. Sources also have it that the UML has already initiated backroom talks with the Nepali Congress on a possible coalition. Several senior leaders have been offered a chance at the magical seat at Singha Durbar, if they are successful in breaking the current NC-Maoist Centre partnership. Anyone but Pushpa Kamal Dahal appears to be their primary mantra—desperate times indeed call for desperate measures.
But what’s in it for the ruling coalition? Dahal, for all that he had to go through in his first stint as prime minister, is in a fix this time around as well.
What does he do now that the amendment bill has been tabled at the Parliament? If the bill is put to vote, the Maoists have only the support of the NC and the conditional support from the Madhesi Morcha. Upendra Yadav and Kamal Thapa have already said they will not vote in favour of the bill in its existing form. When back of the envelope calculations had it that the ruling coalition would fall short in numbers, Dahal declared that he will not withdraw the bill as long as he remains at the helm. This comes on the heels of some of political leaders demanding Dahal’s resignation on moral grounds should the bill be taken back. One of Dahal’s advisors last week even had to publicly defend Dahal’s seat.
So what does the PM do now? It would appear that his only option is to declare local polls and seek a common ground on the amendment bill to ensure both the UML and the Madhesi Morcha participates. That in the very least looks mandatory if he is save his coveted seat.
But then again, the ruling coalition still believes the bill can be passed. Sher Bahadur Deuba wants the bill to be endorsed at any cost. Then, local elections will have to be held by March-April. If you are wondering why so, it’s because he believes that he will be the next prime minister! When the government was formed, the ruling coalition had it that Deuba would take over the reins after local polls were held. With the UML waiting in the wings to make a comeback by supporting the NC in forming the governemnt, what makes Deuba crave for the constitutional amendment and locals polls? It’s simple: He then would not have to deal with any political hassles except for to accommodate all those waiting in line to be part of his cabinet.
The Madhes-based forces are in for a roller coaster ride. Support the bill or reject it, they will undoubtedly be the deal makers. If they don’t take ownership of the bill, they remain where they are—protesting through the streets. But if local polls are held once the amendment is made, they get an opportunity to join the next government. After a gruelling year spent protesting against the statute from outside the Parliament, wouldn’t you be enticed by the cosy seats of Singha Durbar too?
Then finally, why is the RPP suddenly switching from previously hinting at assisting the bill to refusing it now? It’s kind of obvious; Kamal Thapa was not offered the role he had hoped for in case he partakes in the current government. He was denied the second-ranked deputy prime ministeriship and the foreign ministry role. It would be foolhardy to think he’d settle for anything else, now that his united party is the fourth strongest in terms of parliamentary representation.
So these are the hallas afoot in our country that is always so full of hallas. This political gridlock has been a decade in the making, and as of now it looks unlikely that his melee will go quietly into the night. Whatever the outcome, buckle up, were in for a helluva ride!
There you go, some of the sort of talks cooking in coffee shops and political corridors. PS—purely based on observations made from political conversations and none of the writer’s conscience or analysis. Ignorance is bliss.