‘Coordination committee’ to assist government is but a farce, observers sayThe committee that the ruling coalition has instituted, at the behest of Dahal, would rather create hassles than ease day-to-day administrative functioning.
A meeting of the ruling alliance on Monday formed an 11-member “coordination committee” to support the Sher Bahadur Deuba government.
The idea was pushed by Pushpa Kamal Dahal, chair of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre). Dahal had made a similar push when KP Sharma Oli was prime minister. At that time, Oli and Dahal were chairing the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), which was born out of a merger between the CPN-UML and the Maoist Centre. Oli, however, rejected the idea. The two parties were revived by a Supreme Court order on March 7.
At present, Dahal’s Maoist Centre is a key coalition partner in the Deuba government.
As per the agreement, the Nepali Congress, the Maoist Centre, the CPN (Unified Socialist), the Janata Samajbadi Party and the Rastriya Janamorcha each will send two members to the committee, according to Narayan Kaji Shrestha, a Maoist Centre leader.
Gyanendra Bahadur Karki, a Congress leader and minister for law, will represent the government in the committee.
As per the agreement, senior Nepali Congress leaders Ram Chandra Poudel and Krishna Prasad Sitaula will represent the Nepali Congress, Dahal and Shrestha will represent the Maoist Centre, Madhav Nepal will represent the CPN (Unified Socialist), Upendra Yadav will represent the Janata Samajbadi Party and Chitra Bahadur KC and Durga Poudel will represent Rastriya Janamorcha.
The CPN (Unified Socialist) and Janata Samajbadi Party are yet to decide on other leaders who will be on the committee.
A senior Nepali Congress leader close to Deuba said that Dahal had been pushing the idea of such a committee for quite a while.
According to the leader, Deuba gave the consent to Dahal’s proposal as it made everyone happy.
However, many wonder whether such a committee is needed. According to them, Dahal's idea of having such a committee stems from the fact that he wants to “have his say” and maintain his relevance even when he is out of power.
Dahal’s struggle against Oli also started after the latter refused to give the Maoist leader space in the party. The struggle ultimately led to the split of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and ultimately to the fall of the Oli government.
After the formation of the Deuba government, it is once again Dahal, a key coalition partner, who had been making a push for such a committee, which many say is nothing but his bid to “have his control” over day-to-day administrative affairs.
Observers say such a committee comprising party leaders to “oversee” the government may fulfil some individuals’ vested interests but it will create unnecessary problems, ultimately hampering governance.
“Are we trying to squeeze the constitutional role of the government by creating such an informal body that does not have any legal and constitutional?” said Umesh Mainali, a former bureaucrat who also led the Public Service Commission. “Yes, ruling parties do hold meetings to decide on some crucial issues, but constituting such a body called ‘coordination committee’ is not a good idea.”
As per the Constitution of Nepal, a government is formed under someone who commands a majority in the House of Representatives or who can show a majority with the support of various parties in the House.
The incumbent government under Deuba was formed on July 13 after the Supreme Court said that the Congress leader had a majority in the House with the support of other parties.
As per the constitution, the government is accountable to Parliament.
But a committee like the one the ruling coalition has instituted at the behest of Dahal would rather create hassles than ease the functioning of the government, observers say.
At least two party leaders said that Dahal, who pitched the idea of the coordination committee, and Nepal, the chair of the CPN (Unified Socialist), have assured Deuba that they won’t “interfere” with the government’s day-to-day activities.
“We do not want to be an unconstitutional power centre,” Poudel, the Congress leader who is leading the committee,” told the Post. “The committee’s main objective is to protect democracy, the constitution and the achievements made so far. The committee does not intend to control the government because the government is accountable to Parliament.”
For Deuba, such a committee does no harm to him, as it provides a platform for him to “adjust” some disgruntled leaders. With Poudel and Sitaula in the committee, according to some Congress leaders, Deuba actually is happy. Poudel and Sitaula lead two camps within the Congress that are opposed to Deuba.
A Congress leader said by constituting the committee, Deuba has also made it look like he honours what Dahal says.
Such a mechanism, however, is not new in Nepal.
Nepali political parties for long followed this trend of forming what they often call a “high-level political mechanism”. The objective of such mechanisms is said to be assisting the government.
First such mechanism was formed in 2010 when Madhav Nepal became prime despite losing the 2008 elections. Nepal at that time was the leader of the CPN-UML.
Later in 2013, when then chief justice Khil Raj Regmi was made the head of the Council of Ministers political parties had formed an all party high-level political committee to support the Regmi government to hold the Constituent Assembly elections on time.
After the promulgation of the constitution in 2015, Oli became the prime minister in October that year and political parties had formed a high-level political committee under the leadership of Dahal. Later it was dissolved after Dahal himself became prime minister in May 2016.
Dahal had returned to power then after he decided to abandon Oli and side with Deuba. Dahal’s decision to pull out the support had led to the fall of the Oli government.
Five years later, Dahal and Deuba once again are coalition partners. And the “coordination committee” to assist the government has been formed as per Dahal’s wish.
According to Poudel, the leadership of the committee will be changed on a rotational basis–every two months. If the current coalition continues till the next elections, which are 13 months away, Dahal will sooner or later become the head of the committee.
Prime Minister Deuba is not a member of the committee but he will participate in the meeting.
The coordination committee will support the government for the implementation of the common minimum program, protection of nationality, the constitution and democracy and it will work for strengthening various institutions and will provide inputs to the government on good governance and development efforts, according to leaders.
Questions, however, are being asked whether such a committee is indeed required, as whatever the mandate of the committee has been laid out is the primary job of a government.
“I do not see any relevance of such a mechanism,” said Mainali, the former bureaucrat who has also served as a secretary at the Home Ministry in the past. “A government is formed by political parties but once it is formed, it should be above partisan politics. If some individual wishes to control the government, it’s illegal and unconstitutional.”
According to Mainali, forming any committee in the name of supporting or assisting the government is out and out a “bad idea”.
“The current government has a maximum of 13 months to serve,” said Mainali. “The government should focus on addressing pressing issues and overseeing elections which are very near. In my view, there is no need of any political mechanism to support the government.”
Ruling party leaders, however, say the terms of reference of the coordination committee clearly state that it won’t interfere in the day-to-day affairs of the government.
“The coordination committee is a platform for ruling parties to strengthen their relations,” said Shrestha, the Maoist Centre leader. “It will be wrong to view this committee as a structure parallel to the government. The sole objective of this committee is to make governance more effective.”