Common programme repeats government’s past promises13-page paper contains populist pledges and a plan to conclude peace process in 2 years.
Tika R Pradhan
The Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government on Thursday brought a new Common Minimum Programme (CMP), its second in three months, copying most points from earlier programmes including the most recent one and the one before that brought by the Sher Bahadur Deuba-led government.
The 13-page document entitled “Policy Priorities and Common Minimum Programme of Government of Nepal” contains mostly populist promises.
“As I led the CMP drafting committee of the former Deuba-led government, I can see that the document unveiled today is similar to that document,” said Rajendra Shrestha, a Janata Samajbadi Party leader. “But that doesn’t mean there are no new provisions in this document.”
Government spokesperson Rekha Sharma read out the CMP, which was prepared by four members of the major ruling parties—Shrestha from the Janata Samajbadi Party, Ramesh Lekhak from the Nepali Congress, Shakti Basnet from the Maoist Centre and Vijay Poudel from the CPN (Unified Socialist).
The CMP was endorsed by a meeting of the 10-party ruling coalition on Thursday morning. The coalition partners include the Baburam Bhattarai-led Nepal Samajbadi Party, CK Raut-led Janamat Party, Ranjita Shrestha-led Nagarik Unmukti Party, Mahantha Thakur-led Loktantrik Samajbadi Party, Prabhu Sah-led Aam Janata Party and Chitra Bahadur KC-led Rastriya Janamorcha besides the Congress, besides the Maoist Centre, the JSP and the Unified Socialist.
However, the Rastriya Swatantra Party, which supported Prime Minister Dahal during his floor test last month saying the government had included its concerns in the last CMP, did not sign the document unveiled on Thursday.
The government has promised to bring a bill to amend the Citizenship Act within six months. Prime Minister Dahal had promised the same three months ago.
The new document says the peace process has been accorded top priority and will be concluded within two years. But observers say it is easier said than done.
Some political analysts, however, said if Dahal so wished, this would be the perfect time to take the peace process to a logical conclusion.
“If the prime minister is committed, he can conclude the peace process this time as the situation seems favourable with the international community too now in favour of a quick resolution,” said Jhalak Subedi, a political analyst. “Despite minor hurdles, which are expected from the UML and human rights activists, the peace process could actually be concluded this time, after 17 long years.”
Opposition parties including the UML have already objected to the ruling parties’ proposal to endorse the bill related to the peace process through a fast-track process in the House.
Subedi, however, said unveiling CMPs has become nothing more than a ritual of coalition governments, as most of their promises go unfulfilled.
Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Prakash Jwala said the government had to come up with a new programme because of the changes in the ruling coalition partners.
Opposition party leaders, however, criticised the ruling coalition for skirting the Parliament to make the programme public.
“A House of Representatives with a fresh mandate is in session and the government cannot give it business. Shouldn’t the government have announced its common minimum programme in the House?” asked Subas Chandra Nembang, deputy leader of the UML parliamentary party. “This shows the government has no trust in the people, which is a serious issue.”
Just like the earlier governments, the current one has also promised to bring laws ensuring voting rights to Nepali citizens living abroad.
The programme’s fourth point—completion of the peace and transitional justice process—states that the government will review the [court] cases filed against those involved in various movements held in different parts of the country.
“Fake cases will be withdrawn and all the prisoners of political nature will be released,” states the fourth point.
This point has been included to address the concern of the Nagarik Unmukti Party—a coalition partner—which has been demanding the release of Resham Chaudhary, who is doing time at Dillibazar Sadarkhor prison for masterminding the 2015 Tikapur incident that saw deaths of seven policemen and one toddler.
Chaudhary’s spouse and NUP chair Ranjita Shrestha agreed to join the Dahal Cabinet as a minister after coalition leaders promised to release political prisoners including Chaudhary.
According to JSP leader Rajendra Shrestha, this CMP has some new provisions as well.
“We have incorporated a system of promotion for education and health sector workers based on their performance,” said Shrestha. “This was done to discourage political interference in these two vital sectors of the country which are currently in shambles.”
The CMP has also included a provision to strengthen local units and provinces. It states that provinces can supervise only those infrastructure development works connected to two or more local units while the federal government can oversee only those projects that are linked to two or more provinces.
“This will give autonomy to local units and provinces to freely carry out development works, as envisioned by the constitution,” Shrestha told the Post.
Despite making multiple promises through the CMP three months ago, the Dahal government failed to honour any of them. In its first 100 days in office, the Dahal-led government had little to show as its sole focus seemed to be self-preservation and holding of presidential elections.
Still, Dahal’s secretariat put out a 37-point progress report spread over 10 pages—but none of the promises the government made in its CMP three months ago was implemented.
Most achievements enumerated by Dahal’s secretariat were related to day-to-day government activities.
The government’s decision to reward national cricketers and its attempts to manage the queues of passport applicants, according to observers, cannot be termed achievements of any government.
“These are regular jobs. Even a headless government could have done them,” said Hemraj Bhandari, a former leader of Dahal’s Maoist Centre.
Bhandari said this government had taken no initiative to bring changes in the day-to-day life of the people, who are suffering a lot due to various problems including sky-high inflation.
With the change in the coalition, Dahal managed to expand his Cabinet for the seventh time last week but has not been able to give it a full shape yet.
Though Dahal has claimed that his government would leave behind a historic footprint, his actions so far belie that claim, say political leaders, analysts or observers.
On Monday, Dahal advised his ministers not to waste time in ceremonial activities like ribbon-cutting and receiving garlands. But observers say the prime minister has been going against his own advice.
Prime Minister Dahal, however, tries to give the impression that he constantly thinks about improving people’s lives and pulling the country out of a ‘crisis’.
“We have to institutionalise our political achievements, take the peace process to a logical conclusion, and commit ourselves to bring distinct improvements in the lives of the people,” Dahal told the ministers. “I won’t go into data but we all know that our country is in a serious crisis… we should see this as a challenge.”
But party leaders say the leadership was only involved in power games instead of working in public interest.
“No one, be they peasants or urban middle class, is happy. Yet this government has failed to show them even a glimmer of hope, much less give them respite from their problems,” said Bhandari, the former Maoist leader.