Congress’ shadow cabinet has largely failed to check on government activitiesSince its formation five months ago, the shadow government of the main opposition party has yet to hold a single meeting.
In order to keep a closer watch on the KP Sharma Oli administration, the primary opposition Nepali Congress had formed a “shadow government” headed by party president Sher Bahadur Deuba. But in the five months since its formation, not a single meeting of the shadow government has taken place. The role of shadow ministers has not been effective either, with little discussion over the content of proposed bills, say party insiders.
Members of the shadow cabinet themselves admit that their roles have not been as effective as envisioned and they are not working as a collective unit.
“I admit that the role of the shadow government has not been effective,” said shadow minister for education Gagan Thapa. “In my case, I go through each and every issue that falls under the Ministry of Education. Similarly, I also read the bills related to the Ministry of Education, and I present myself accordingly in the House.”
However, besides Thapa, two others from the Congress have been assigned responsibility for the Education Ministry in an attempt to balance the rival factions inside the party, said Thapa.
A number of shadow ministers said that the bureaucracy hinders their work by not providing accurate information so that they can raise issues effectively in the House.
One Congress leader told the Post that most of the time, they have to rely on information from the media.
“We have hardly received any support from the bureaucracy and officials from the concerned ministries that we are undersigned to look after,” the leader told the Post.
After numerous complaints from shadow ministers about the failure to hold a meeting, Deuba is now planning to call a meeting to review the progress made by his shadow government. The date, however, has yet to be decided.
“It is true that we haven’t sat together since the formation of the government, but we are regularly updating issues and voicing our concern in the House,” said shadow foreign minister Narayan Khadka. “But we have failed to expose the irregularities taking place in various ministries. There are several issues that we must raise, but we haven’t taken them up properly.”
Some shadow ministers are vocal in both Houses, but the performance of others is dismal, admit party leaders.
According to Congress leaders, the Oli government has introduced several unpopular laws related to limiting media freedoms, freedom of expression, access to social sites and the advertisement sector, but shadow communication minister Bahadur Singh Lama has yet to raise these issues in the House or make a public statement.
The concept of a shadow government came from the British parliamentary system, where opposition members are regularly assigned to ‘shadow’ ministers and assist in governance while maintaining an additional layer of checks and balances. After the formation of the current communist government, the strongest ever, the Nepali Congress had formed a shadow government and appointed ministers from all factions.
Some ministers accused House Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara of preventing them from functioning effectively as a shadow cabinet.
Shadow defence minister Bhimsen Das Pradhan said that Mahara fully supports the Oli government and does not accord importance to the role of the opposition party in the House.
“We are collecting feedback and suggestions from various sources, but that’s not enough. The government and the House Speaker do not support us, so we’re not making progress as desired,” said Pradhan. “It is true that we have not held a meeting in five months, but we will be meeting soon.”
But experts say that if the opposition party itself is absent in the House, the shadow government can’t be expected to be visible.
“If Deuba himself, the leader of the opposition, isn’t present in the House, how can we expect his ministers to play an effective role?” said political analyst Puranjan Acharya. “Has there been any significant issue that the shadow ministers have taken up in the House? There are issues from public discomfort to policy corruption, but the role of the shadow government has been found wanting.”
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