An ordinance that makes it more evident Deuba no different from OliThe Congress-led government has done exactly the same for which the party criticised Oli government last year. It’s the UML that is launching an attack on Deuba now.
“Unacceptable move, irresponsible tendency,” screamed the title of a Nepali Congress statement on April 20 last year. The Congress party had issued the statement in response to then prime minister KP Sharma Oli’s move of issuing an ordinance to amend laws to ease party split.
More than a year later, Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba replaced Oli.
On Tuesday, the Deuba government did exactly the same for which it had come down heavily on Oli. Now it’s Oli's turn to take up the cudgels against Deuba. Oli’s CPN-UML has already declared that it would vehemently oppose the ordinance recommended by the Deuba government.
The ordinance is currently with the Office of the President.
“The Cabinet has forwarded the ordinance to President Bidya Devi Bhandari,” said Tika Dhakal, a senior communication expert to the President. “It will most likely be promulgated on Wednesday.”
The ordinance that the Deuba government has brought has the same objective as the one brought by the Oli government. The difference however, according to ministers familiar with it, is that the latest one seeks to change the provision of a political party split, reducing the requirement for numbers of members in the Central Committee and the Parliamentary Party.
As per the current provisions of Political Parties Act-2017, any group can register a new party if it can show it has control over 40 percent members of the Central Committee and the Parliamentary Party. The ordinance has changed it to 20 percent, and the “and” provision has been changed to “or”.
The Oli government’s ordinance had kept the requirement of the number of members at 40 percent and sought to change the “and” provision to “or”.
If the ordinance is promulgated, the UML’s split is almost certain, as the Madhav Nepal faction could easily register a new party. It would also help Mahantha Thakur, who has been relegated into minority in the Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP), to form a new party.
The Janata Samajbadi Party was formed in response to the ordinance move by Oli last year. After widespread criticism, Oli was forced to recommend the repeal of the ordinance after five days.
Deuba’s ordinance move has met with criticism from members of his own party.
“The motive behind bringing the ordinance is to split the UML and the JSP,” said Dr Shekhar Koirala, a senior Congress leader. “But this seriously undermines democratic values and the parliamentary culture.”
According to Koirala, the ordinance, the prime minister believes, will prolong his stay in power.
“The ordinance will make it easier for Madhav Nepal to form a new party and join the government. But in principle, this is as wrong a move by this government as that by the erstwhile government,” Koirala told the Post.
“Our party, which leads the government, should not endorse such a decision, which seeks to skip the parliamentary process.”
When the Deuba government on Monday suddenly prorogued the House, it had become apparent that it would bring an ordinance to ease party split. The government, however, is likely to issue some more ordinances, as it is not sure of its own strength when it comes to the passage of bills from Parliament. The budget is one of them. The Deuba government could not bring a replacement bill for the budget ordinance with some amendments, as it was not sure if it had enough numbers to pass it.
“But dodging the House is not a good practice,” said Koirala. “If the prime minister thinks he lacks a majority, it is better to dissolve the House and declare elections.”
Even though Deuba managed to secure 165 votes when he went for a floor test on July 18, there is unanimity that his fifth stint as prime minister is accidental. Oli’s misadventures led the Supreme Court to issue an order to appoint Deuba as prime minister.
But with no certainty that 14 lawmakers from the Nepal faction who had voted for Deuba would vote for any bill, Deuba’s government was hobbling. Even more than a month after assuming office, Deuba has not been able to expand his Cabinet.
A senior Congress leader told the Post that Deuba decided to introduce the ordinance at the request of the Nepal faction of the UML and Thakur of the JSP.
“There is no doubt that the move is aimed at facilitating splits in the UML and JSP,” said the leader, who did not wish to be named.
A split in the UML now appears to be imminent.
Just as Deuba recommended the ordinance, the UML expelled Nepal and 13 other members as lawmakers.
Nepal told his supporters on Tuesday that “a new party will be formed”.
“We will re-organise the party,” said Nepal. “We may unite again if Oli corrects himself, or jointly contest polls together later.”
As a last-ditch effort, Nepal had assigned Ghanashyam Bhusal to hold talks with Oli to explore the possibility of keeping the party unity intact. But discussions failed to yield results.
Those removed as lawmakers are Nepal, Jeevan Ram Shrestha, Mukunda Neupane, Kalyani Khadka, Ram Kumari Jhakri, Laxmi Kumari Chaudhary, Nira Devi Jairu, Pushpa Kumari Karna, Sarala Yadav, Kalila Khatun, Birodh Khatiwada, Krishna Lal Maharjan, Bhawani Khapung and Metmani Chaudhary.
Raghuji Pant, a Standing Committee member who is close to Nepal, said if the establishment side fails to withdraw its decision of expelling lawmakers, the party won’t remain united.
Deuba’s rival faction in the Nepali Congress, led by Ram Chandra Poudel, too has objected to the ordinance. His key coalition partner, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), however, has maintained silence.
The Post’s repeated attempts to speak to Narayan Kaji Shrestha, spokesperson for the Maoist Centre, went unanswered.
A Maoist leader, who did not wish to be named, however, said that there is no need to explain why the government is bringing the ordinance.
“The objective is clear… facilitating a split in the UML,” the leader told the Post. “We don’t want this House to get dissolved for the lack of numbers with the ruling alliance. The ordinance will pave the way for the Nepal faction to form a new party and join the government.”
A leader of the Nepal faction welcomed the government move of bringing the ordinance.
“Let Oli expel us from Parliament… from the Central Committee and other party committees,” Birodh Khatiwada told the Post. “But let the ordinance come, we will form a new party. There are several steps ahead. Things don’t happen at once.”
Observers, however, say Nepali politicians must learn to abide by the rule of law and rise over partisan interest and shed their penchant for power so that they can give some time for the country and the people.
When Deuba was appointed prime minister, many had quipped that he did not inspire hope but the only solace was he was not Oli. However, with the ordinance, Deuba appears to be trying to prove he is no different from Oli.
Rajendra Maharjan, a political analyst, said if Oli’s move of introducing the ordinance was wrong, so is Deuba’s.
“How come something done by Oli is wrong and it is right when it is done by Deuba,” Maharjan, who comments on contemporary politics, told the Post. “Nepali political parties must stop deceiving the people of this country.”
Most of the Congress leaders, who had condemned Oli’s ordinance last year, opted not to speak in detail on their government’s ordinance.
“The party has not made a position yet on the government’s decision to bring the ordinance,” said Bishwo Prakash Sharma, spokesperson for the Congress party. “I think the ordinance was issued due to some political compulsions.”