They lost elections but still want to get into Parliament somehowAttempts of some influential leaders to become lawmakers post-election is an insult to voters, analysts say.
A few political leaders, after their electoral defeats, have been engaged in wheeling and dealing to become lawmakers again, with the ultimate goal of getting prominent posts such as that of a minister. It is a terrible practice, say observers.
Nepal’s constitution mandates that ministers and prime ministers be appointed from among members elected to the federal parliament; in case of a non-lawmaker, they should become lawmakers within six months of their appointment to the executive posts. As such, many key political leaders, for long, have been engaged in closed-door dealings for by-election or any other option to get elected to Parliament—after the public threw them out of parliament through elections.
The Janata Samajbadi Party has been laying its claim to the post of Vice President in negotiations with the Maoist Centre chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government. What’s interesting is the alleged ulterior motive of the Janata Samajbadi chair Upendra Yadav behind his lobbying for the major national position for his party.
Yadav clearly wants to be a lawmaker—and most probably the parliamentary party leader—through a possible by-election in Bara-2, in place of Ram Sahaya Prasad Yadav, the incumbent parliamentary party leader. If Yadav succeeds in electing Ram Sahaya the Vice President, the lawmaker seat from his constituency will be vacant. Upendra Yadav will then contest the vacant seat.
Article 62 (6) of Nepal’s constitution states: “In case a person who holds a political office to be fulfilled by way of election, nomination or appointment is elected the President under this Article, such office shall, ipso facto, fall vacant.”
Similarly, Article 67 (3) states that in case a person who holds a political office to be fulfilled by way of election, nomination or appointment is elected as Vice President, such office shall, ipso facto, fall vacant.
Shankar Pokharel, general secretary of CPN-UML, has also been manoeuvring behind the scenes to secure a lawmaker position after he lost in the November polls. As a common candidate of the Congress-led alliance, Rekha Sharma of Maoist Centre defeated Pokharel. Recently, Sharma was offered the post of Vice President in a bid to bring Pokharel to Parliament from the constituency. But she turned down the offer.
“Both KP Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal offered Sharma the vice-presidential job. But she rejected the offer,” a Maoist Centre politburo member said on the condition of anonymity. “Sharma did the right thing. She has defeated a political heavyweight, which is a great accomplishment.”
Rajesh Gautam, a political analyst, said the leaders who lost election have already been rejected, and if they succeed in becoming lawmakers, it will be an insult to voters.
“It is wrong to try to bring in leaders who lost elections to Parliament. This naked pursuit of power contravenes the values of electoral politics,” he said. “Such leaders have been creating unnecessary disputes in the party and in broader politics just to get power, even after losing the polls.”
Historically, many key leaders have engaged in such closed-door dealings to become lawmakers, or to get elected to powerful positions.
Speaking at a function on Friday, Bamdev Gautam, a National Assembly member, said the provision that only lawmakers can get ministerial berths should be taken down. “Our governance system is wrong. Until the system to pick ministers only from Parliament ends, corruption will worsen,” he said. “So there should be a directly-elected executive and the system of appointing ministers from Parliament should end.”
Chandra Dev Bhatta, another political analyst, said that while becoming parliamentarians through the back door might bring short-term benefits, it will harm such candidates in the long run as their public image takes a hit. “Nor will it do any good to their mother parties,” he added.
National Assembly member Gautam has in the past been known for his power-at-any-cost mindset.
After Nepali Congress leader Sanjaya Gautam beat him in the 2017 parliamentary elections from Bardiya, his dream to become a minister and probably the prime minister was shattered. But he would not remain outside Parliament.
Article 86 (2 b) of the constitution, which discusses the composition of the National Assembly, says that three of its members, including a woman, will be nominated by the President at the recommendation of the Government of Nepal.
Bamdev Gautam, after his defeat, tried to woo other UML leaders to vacate their lawmaker position, but to no avail. Only Rambir Manandhar agreed to resign as an MP for Gautam. But Manandhar backtracked on his offer after being widely criticised for trying to subvert the electoral mandate.
Later, the President appointed Bamdev Gautam to the upper house at then-prime minister KP Sharma Oli’s recommendation.
While Gautam later began lobbying for a ministerial position, a writ petition was filed against his appointment to the upper house, arguing that a leader beaten in the polls should not be allowed to be a minister. The court in November 2020 cleared the way for Gautam to become a minister after the constitutional bench led by Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana scrapped its own previous order.
Bhatta, the political analyst, said that public frustration with the old faces has been growing. When a loser succeeds in getting a prominent post through a back door, it makes the situation worse. “Bamdev Gautam’s political career has taken a hit due to such shady activities,” he said.
On May 25, 2009, Madhav Kumar Nepal was appointed the prime minister. This was after he had lost the 2008 Constituent Assembly elections from two constituencies. Later, he was nominated to the Constituent Assembly, and he then stitched together a coalition government with the backing of 22 parties.
Even the Maoist Centre had supported his nomination to the CA, believing Nepal would be a great help in constitution drafting. UML CA member Sushil Chandra Amatya had vacated his seat for Nepal.
In return, former CA member Amatya was appointed the ambassador to Sri Lanka in July 2009.