April Analysis: Federalism

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Timeline the important events in April

DateEvents
April 15Nepali Congress (NC), Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Center (CPN-MC), and Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP) registered the no-confidence motion against Gandaki Pradesh CM Prithvi Subba Gurung
April 16Karnali Pradesh CM Mahendra Bahadur Shahi won the vote of confidence in the provincial assembly.
April 18Province 1 Speaker Pradeep Kumar Bhandari announced the end of the winter session (seventh session) from Sunday midnight.
April 19With the signature of 41 Lumbini Pradesh lawmakers from the opposition partiesfiled a no-confidence motion against the CM Sankar Pokharel
April 19CM Shankar Pokharel appointed four lawmakers of Janata Samajbadii Party (JSP) as ministers who cross the floor
April 20Sudurpaschim Pradesh Speaker Arjun Bahadur Thapa announced the end of the winter session from Tuesday midnight
April 22Province 2 called the meeting to finalize its provincial name and capital city
April 26Gandaki Pradesh started the special session and then voted on a no-trust motion against CM Prithvi Subba Gurung.
May 2Lumbini CM Shankar Pokhrel resigned from his post.
May 2Provincial Governor Dharma Nath Yadav reappointed Shankar Pokhrel as the CM of Lumbini Pradesh

Political ripple in the provincial level

The devious nature of Nepali politics in the past few months over the country has rippled the three tiers of government (federal, provincial, and local) which in turn is harming the essence of federalism. If observed in the present political scenario, leaders have likely lost their subtle morality. While the country is reeling with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders are busy in the power-sharing and factional disputes. Be it in the top (center) or the local (wards) bloc, political leaders seem to be fighting for their gain and much little for the citizens’.

Now, the parties are gaming through a vote of a no-confidence motion against Chief Ministers (CMs) in the provincial levels and trying to exercise power. Except for province 2, six provinces have been rippled because of the no-confidence motions. For example, on April 19, the opposition parties NC, CPN-MC, JSP filed a vote of a no-confidence motion in the provincial assembly against Lumbini CM, Shankar Pokharel. Interestingly, CM Pokharel appointed four JSP lawmakers as ministers who signed a no-motion against him. Besides, CM Pokharel had abruptly ended the ongoing session while political parties were trying to table the no-confidence motion against him. In another occasion, on May 2, CM Shankar Pokharel resigned as the chief minister while the opposition parties tried to table a no-confidence motion against him. On the same day, Mr. Pokharel was reappointed as CM. Lumbini Province’s incident is a clear demonstration of leaders gaming for their gain.

Similarly, on April 15, the opposition parties filed for the vote of no-confidence motion in the provincial assembly against Gandaki CM Prithvi Subba Gurung. CM Gurung also ended the session, but the opposition parties pardoned the rash end, and demanded a special session as it seemed that the CM did not follow the provincial secretariat’s code of conduct. Despite the controversy, Province 1, Bagmati Pradesh, and Sudurpashchim Pradesh also rashly ended the winter session.

Remarkably, Chief Minister of Karnali Pradesh Mahendra Bahadur Shahi won the vote of confidence in the provincial assembly. During the vote, four members of Parliaments (MPs) belonging to the CPN-UML, crossed floor. Karnali’s incident has emerged a new view in the political scenario. Similarly, Gandaki Pradesh’s four MPs have also crossed the floor, which means the leaders are catching their factions while the country seems to be forwarding towards political instability yet again.

Criticism in the fiscal transfer 

Recently the government of Nepal transferred a fiscal equalization grant of Rs152 billion to provincial and local governments in the upcoming fiscal year 2021/22 as the recommendation of the National Natural Resource and Fiscal Commission (NNRFC). Despite three years of experience, the federal government has been criticized over the fiscal issues. Due to the lack of a clear criteria/law, the provincial government so far could not receive a loan.

Moreover, the government is declining the budget in several sectors which had harmed related projects. For example, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD) was declined the budget in the upcoming fiscal year 2021/22. Similarly, the market monitoring of the Department of Commerce, Supplies, and Consumer Protection has also received a low budget in the current fiscal year. As the Ministry of Finance, the government has received half of the budget due to the COVID-19 compared to the last fiscal year. Thus, because of reducing the budget, several sectors have been affected and related beneficiaries seem to be disappointed.

Inter-relation among three tiers of governments

In the first “National Mayor Conference” organized by the Pokhara Metropolitan City on April 13-14, the local government’s representatives accused the federal and provincial governments of interfering with the rights of local governments. The local governments are deprived of their rights and lack laws. After three years-long experience in the federal system, the local governments are still not able to write necessary laws. This is due to the central mindset of the country, which even federalism does not seem to mend.

The recent political dramas are significantly harming the federalism implementation and its direct impact on the general public. However, the political leaders should pay attention to controlling the COVID-19 pandemic, creating jobs, and relief packages for general. But leaders are busy in the power-sharing game. Meanwhile, the citizens are losing hope from the governance.

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