Oli called all-party meeting expecting support, got vitriol insteadLeaders of political parties represented in Parliament said that the failure in governance had invited the ongoing protests against the system.
The last time Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli convened an all-party meet was in May after his government had registered a bill in Parliament to amend the constitution to update the political map of Nepal in the national emblem.
Although Parliament is not in session and there is no international issue to discuss, there is another parallel with May for the scheduling of the meeting on Tuesday.
Then Oli was facing intense pressure from within his party to resign. It is a similar scenario now and this pressure has only grown.
The meeting, according to a tweet from Oli’s press adviser on Monday, was to discuss “contemporary national political issues”.
The issue that has been of concern is the anti-federalism and pro-monarchy demonstrations that have been going on in different parts of the country.
If Oli had hoped for some support, like he did in May to amend the constitution, to counter the ongoing anti-constitutional activities and safeguard the political achievements from the party leaders he had invited, he must have been disappointed, going by what transpired in the all-party meeting, according to the participants.
“During today’s meeting also, parties criticised the government’s activities as always,” Jhala Nath Khanal, a senior leader of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP), told the Post.
Senior leader of the main opposition Ram Chandra Poudel vehemently attacked the government during the meeting, having been detained by the police last week when he went to Tanahun to inaugurate a bridge.
“We brought the new constitution, which is the source for the changes, but the prime minister has failed to understand this change,” Poudel said at the meeting, according to him. “The role of the prime minister should have been to coordinate among the political forces but you did not coordinate.”
Leaders of smaller parties like Rastriya Janamorcha, which has one seat in the federal parliament, corroborated this narrative.
“All the party leaders speaking at the all-party meeting had lashed out at the government’s failure on all fronts including proper implementation of the constitution,” said Janak Raj Sharma, general secretary of the Rastriya Janamorcha. “They had also blamed the government for inviting protests out of frustrations.”
In his opening remarks at the meeting, Oli said anti-constitution and violent activities would not be tolerated and urged the parties to unite.
He was also referring to the activities of the Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal, which killed a teacher in Morang district on Tuesday.
Other “anti-constitutional activities” have been the anti-federalism and pro-monarchy rallies.
Concerned about the rallies, including one held in Kathmandu on November 30, the Kathmandu District Administration Office issued a notice on December 3 warning the demonstrators that the authorities would take action as per the laws if they continue to violate the government's directive not to organise gatherings.
However, authorities remained mute spectators when another such demonstration was held in the Capital two days later.
“Leaders have also questioned whether there was any connection between the communists and royalists,” said Upendra Yadav, presently the chairman of Janata Samajbadi Party, and whose Madhesi Janadhikar Forum had led protests in the plains in January 2007, which ensured that the country would adopt a federal system.
Observers had blamed the failure in governance for the growing frustration of the people against the system.
On Tuesday too leaders of the political parties blamed the government for inviting rallies calling for the end of the federal system and the return of constitutional monarchy.
“Due to the government's anti-constitutional activities, frustrations have been expressed in various ways and the royalists are trying to cash in the failures to attack the system,” said Prakash Sharan Mahat, joint general secretary of the Nepali Congress. “We have told the government to correct its activities as per the constitutional provisions.”
Such criticism came despite Oli’s attempt at the start of the meet to urge the parties to be conscious while criticising the government without any basis as that could defame the whole political system.
Prime Minister Oli has been criticised for acting against the spirit of federalism for various decisions like pressuring provincial lawmakers to agree on Dang Deukhuri as the capital of Lumbini, and allegedly instigating provincial lawmakers in Karnali to table a no confidence motion against the chief minister of his own party who belonged to the rival faction.
Federal laws on the hiring of provincial civil servants are yet to be legislated.
“Our point is the ongoing protests are nothing but [an expression of] the frustrations at the government’s failure and anti-federalism activities,” Yadav told the Post.
However, opposition parties are also to blame for failing to play their role in holding the government to account, according to leaders and observers.
Leaders within the party have accused Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba of having an understanding with Oli on power sharing issues for the party’s failure to play a meaningful role as the main opposition in a democratic set-up.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Poudel warned against any such understanding between Oli and Deuba.
“If you and our president agree and fill up these [vacant constitutional] posts, I will oppose such appointments,” Poudel told the meeting, an indication of the extent of division within the main opposition party.
Deuba attended the meeting but left before it ended and even without putting forth his views.
The Janata Samajbadi Party, the third largest party with 32 seats in the House of Representatives, has its own teething problems to become a political party with clear ideology and roadmap, according to observers.
Leaders who attended Tuesday’s meeting told the Post that the prime minister plans to hold such meetings in future too.
“On behalf of the ruling party, the prime minister spoke briefly at last saying such meetings would continue,” said Khanal.
But what purpose such meetings hold is a question that leaders of the opposition have raised.
“What I understood is that the prime minister was saying there is no alternative to this government and therefore the leaders should give their suggestions,” said Prem Suwal, leader of Nepal Majdoor Kisan Party, which has one seat in the federal parliament.
Factionalism within the ruling Nepal Communist Party was not lost on the opposition.
“I told the leaders of the ruling party that the letters of the two chairmen speak volumes about the existing situation [in the party] and we have nothing to say,” Bimalendra Nidhi, vice president of the Nepali Congress, told the Post.
The assessment of Poudel, the senior Congress leader, was even more blunt.
“This government has lost the moral ground to rule,” Poudel told the Post.
(Anil Giri contributed reporting.)