Oli faction cripples provincial assemblies to save two chief ministersThe Nepal Communist Party feud is having an impact on provinces, which will be detrimental to democratic principles and the constitution, experts say.
On January 20, the winter sessions of Province 1 and Bagmati Province commenced. The meetings of the provincial assemblies were called because the constitutional provisions made them mandatory. As per the Constitution of Nepal, there cannot be a gap of more than six months between the two sessions of the assemblies.
However, both the assemblies have failed to hold a single full-fledged meeting. The reason: The Nepal Communist Party faction led by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli does not want it.
Ever since Oli dissolved the House of Representatives on December 20, the Nepal Communist Party has split. One faction is led by Oli and the other by Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal.
The Oli faction is making every attempt to postpone the assembly meetings—and is even resorting to obstructions to avoid discussions and voting on no-confidence motions registered against the chief ministers in both provinces. The chief ministers in both provinces—Dormani Poudel and Sherdhan Rai—are close to Oli.
The Dahal-Nepal faction filed no-confidence motions against Poudel and Rai on December 25 and December 27, respectively. Commencement of the assembly meetings would mean discussions and voting on the no-confidence motions, which could bring down both the governments.
After a month of deferral, despite reservations from the Oli faction, the Province 1 Assembly met on Sunday.
However, it was adjourned immediately till March 4 after the no-trust motion was tabled in the assembly. There was no discussion and voting after the Oli faction boycotted the meeting. As many as 37 provincial assembly members led by Indra Bahadur Aangbo registered the no trust-motion and proposed Bhim Acharya as the chief ministerial candidate instead. Five members of the assembly withdrew their proposal a month later.
Political and constitutional experts say what has been going on in the provinces is a rare incident, quite unbecoming of a democratic country, as the ruling party is obstructing an assembly meeting.
In principle, it is the responsibility of the ruling party to ensure the assembly or House meetings are held, according to them.
“It is the responsibility of the ruling party to provide business to the assembly and ensure that the assemblies function smoothly,” Krishna Pokharel, a professor of political science at Tribhuvan University, told the Post. “In a functioning democracy, we don’t imagine a situation where the ruling party obstructs the assemblies from performing their duties.”
After the 2017 elections, the Nepal Communist Party formed governments in six out of seven provinces—except in Province 2.
But after the split in the Nepal Communist Party, a power game has started, with Oli trying to exert influence.
On Sunday, Rai, the chief minister of Province 1, wanted deferral of the provincial assembly. However, Pradeep Kumar Bhandari, the provincial Speaker, refused and called the meeting. The meeting of the assembly called on January 20 was deferred until February 8, which was again postponed till Sunday.
Similar is the scenario in Bagmati Province where the provincial assembly meeting was adjourned twice on February 1 and February 17 as the Oli faction didn’t want the meeting.
Provincial assembly members close to Dahal and Nepal are raising questions over the impartiality of Sanu Kumar Shrestha, the Speaker of Bagmati Province.
“The Speaker is postponing the assembly meetings at the behest of the Oli faction,” Ratna Dhakal, a Bagmati provincial assembly member from the Dahal-Nepal faction, told the Post. “Let’s see how long he postpones the meeting.”
Experts say Oli dissolved the House on December 20 fearing that a no-confidence motion could be moved against him and now leaders loyal to him are trying to defer provincial assembly meetings.
“As the dissolution of the provincial assembly isn’t easy, the Oli faction is trying its best to ensure that assembly meetings are not held,” said Pokharel. “It is out and out undemocratic to stop the people’s representatives from functioning.”
Oli recommended the dissolution of the lower house after realising that a no-confidence motion was being registered against him.
The Nepal Communist Party had 174 seats in the 275-strong House of Representatives. But the Dahal-Nepal faction held a majority.
Experts say the Oli faction might be waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision before taking any further decision.
The five-member Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court has completed hearing on the 13 writ petitions filed against Oli’s House dissolution move.
The bench led by Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana has directed the plaintiffs, defendants and amicus curiae to present their briefs by Monday.
Officials at the Supreme Court say a verdict is likely this week.
On the last day of the hearing on Friday, Rana had said it can take a couple of days after the lawyer’s briefs are submitted for the final verdict.
“The moves of dissolving the House and making provincial assemblies defunct show Oli and his people are bent on breaching the constitution to the extent that benefits them,” Mohan Lal Acharya, an advocate who served as a constitutional expert to the Constituent Assembly, told the Post. “Several moves by the Oli faction are setting negative precedents, which are good neither for democracy nor for the implementation of the constitution.”
According to Acharya, the Oli government had the responsibility and opportunity to implement the constitution and ensure its wider acceptability. However, within five years of its promulgation, Oli’s moves have put the constitution in a coma, he said.
Experts say Oli on different occasions has spoken and taken steps against the spirit of federalism.
In May 2019, he said that provincial and local governments were not independent entities, but administrative units under the federal government. Similarly, the provincial assemblies were given no authority to decide on the names and headquarters on their own—the party took a decision instead to that effect.
“Oli has no respect for a democratically elected institution as he believes in centralising power,” Chandra Dev Bhatta, a political commentator for the Post's sister paper Kantipur, told the Post. “Disruption of provincial assembly meetings is yet another example that Oli and his faction have no respect for the constitution and federalism.”