In one and a half years, all Congress shadow government did was hold two meetingsWhen it comes to criticising the government over public hardships and bad governance, the main opposition has failed to make its presence felt.
The primary opposition Nepali Congress formed a 21-member shadow government led by party President Sher Bahadur Deuba on May 20 last year to check the activities of the KP Sharma Oli government.
Even since, Debua has failed to conduct more than two meetings in the last one and a half years and to come up with any firm position or statement or take any other action on pertaining issues like the Covid pandemic, charges of financial irregularities and corruption within the government, the issue of map controversy with India, foreign policy debate and issues of governance and livelihoods related to the general public.
Nepali Congress leaders, ministers in the shadow government and those following the Congress politics closely say that the party has lost its objective and relevance due to the non-functioning shadow government, blurring the image of Congress as the primary opposition.
After failing to do anything worthwhile, Minendra Rijal who was assigned the finance portfolio in the shadow cabinet, resigned on June 7 but his resignation has yet to be accepted or rejected.
Not forming the shadow cabinet in the first place might have been better, said senior Nepali Congress leader Arjun Narsingh KC. “If it remains silent on people’s suffering, if it does not speak on the poor handling of the Covid pandemic and remains silent on corruption and financial irregularities, and other key issues related to governance, then what is the objective of its formation.”
The Oli government has crossed halfway of its five-year tenure. Oli was appointed the prime minister on February 15, 2018 with an overwhelming majority and promised big ticket infrastructure projects and good government with the slogan “Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepalis”.
But while the government fails to keep its electoral promises, even leaders like Gagan Thapa, who looks after health, and Dila Sangraula, who is in charge of the Labour, Employment and Social Security affairs, and most others whose actual designations are coordinator have not submitted ministry-wise reports to the Congress Parliamentary Party office regularly.
“The shadow government itself is in the shadow. In a functional democracy, shadow government is seen and considered as the alternative government. But we are facing unprecedented challenges in our history due to the pandemic but we are helpless and doing nothing. Front-line health workers and security personnel are infected, hospital beds are overstretched by Covid patients but neither the ruling party nor the opposition expresses concern and takes prompt action,” said KC.
When there is an issue to discuss or take decision, the party leadership always bypasses the role of shadow government, one minister said, we were never consulted in key issues.
Rijal, who refuses to comment on his resignation from the finance monitor, told the Post referring to the change in the Oli Cabinet of the finance minister that Deuba could replace him too.
“What can we do if the shadow prime minister himself is not interested to meet his colleagues, discuss issues and make a position on various issues? Even though I did not attend one meeting, I keep on speaking and raising people’s voices on various platforms,” said Rijal.
One leader close to Deuba said it could be the party president’s personal nature that he does not consult party members much until something comes as a pressing problem. The opposition leader or the shadow prime minister hardly listens to others’ opinions but leaders appreciated Deuba’s convening of the Central Working Committee to decide the party’s position on whether to support the Oli government when it published the new map of Nepal by incorporating Kalapani, Lipu Lekh and Limpiyadhura currently occupied by India.
Deuba has rejected the calls for holding even virtual meetings of the party’s parliamentary committee or the shadow government arguing that the party spokesperson and other leaders have been voicing the concerns of the opposition party through the media.
Nepali Congress is no more a topic for discussion, political commentator Shreekrishna Aniruddh Gautam said. “It can at least do a memorable job at this height of the pandemic so that people would remember it, but the Nepali Congress has failed.”
“The US government has provided $15,00 to each citizen who suffered from the lockdown. The Indian government provided minimum food subsidies to its people but our government has totally failed,” said Gautam.
“In this situation, if the Nepali Congress provided food for the working class people for one week, people would remember it. People would notice that there is an opposition party too but Nepali Congress has failed to capture that opportunity too,” said Gautam.