News Digest – Democracy & Governance (December 10 – December 16, 2020)

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Democracy

Nepal Communist Party (NCP): PM Oli called an all-party meeting on December 9 to discuss “contemporary national political issues,” such as the ongoing pro-monarchy demonstrations. However, Oli’s attempt to gather support during a NCP’s crisis rather resulted in a bitter criticism of the government’s performance and Oli’s autocracy.

In an informal meeting with Dahal on December 9, PM and NCP co-chair KP Oli requested Dahal to end his alliance with Madhav Nepal and form a new alliance with him. However, Dahal communicated his firm stance that all decisions be taken through Standing Committee and Central Committee meetings. Oli also accused Nepal of being deceitful, to which Dahal responded in Nepal’s defense in turn pointing the finger back at Oli.

The Dahal-Nepal faction of the NCP held a provincial-level gathering of the district officials in Kathmandu, Bagmati, on December 10. In the meeting, Dahal repeated his frustration against PM Oli and stated that insult and betrayal have crossed all boundaries and that a long-term decision should now be made through meetings.

While Oli and Dahal remain firm on their position, indicating no sign of any agreement, second-rank leaders of the Standing Committee also seem divided along the factional lines; some see Oli at a fault, whereas others blame the Dahal-Nepal faction for the ongoing crisis within the party.

Although PM Oli attended the December 13 Standing Committee meeting amid uncertainties and heighted tensions, the meeting was postponed till December 16 after offering condolences to the party’s Central Committee member Kaman Singh Lama.

Nepali Congress (NC): On December 14, 2020, Nepali Congress held nationwide demonstrations, in all 77 districts, criticizing the government and seeking accountability of its actions. However, experts observe that the move is “too little too late.” Some point out that the largest opposition party in the parliament has failed to even pressure the government to resume the House session.

To address the demonstrations, NC’s top leaders travelled to different parts of the country; while president Sher Bahadur Deuba was in Makawanpur, senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel attended the demonstrations from Kathmandu’s Shantivatika. Similarly, Bimalendra Nidhi was in Bhaktapur, Dr. Shashank Koirala in Morang, Prakash Sharan Mahat in Jhapa, Sunil Bahadur Thapa in Dhankuta, Gopalman Shrestha in Kavre, Prakash Man Singh in Dhanusha, Arjun Narsingh KC in Baglung, Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat in Chitwan, Chitra Lekha Yadav in Saptari, and Gagan Thapa in Kailali.

Speaking to the crowd in Biratnagar on December 14, NC’s general secretary Shashank Koirala said that monarchy will not return and that there should be referendum on whether to declare Nepal a Hindu state.


Most of the leaders, including Deuba, Poudel, Koirala, and Singh, spoke about the government’s growing authoritarian tendencies, inefficiency, and its involvement in corruption cases.

Constitutional Council: The meeting of the Constitutional Council was called for December 13; there are 45 vacant seats in different positions of the constitutional bodies that need to be filled. NCP co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, however, expressed his discontent with Oli’s move to call the meeting amidst an ongoing intra-party crisis.

After the Nepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba informed not to attend, the Constitutional Council meeting scheduled for December 13 was automatically called off due to constitutional provisions. According to the constitution, at least 5 of the 6 members of the Council need to be present for a meeting to convene. Therefore, Deuba’s absence and Speaker Agni Sapkota’s uncertainty meant the meeting could not take place because the Council already has a missing member, for there has been no Deputy Speaker for months.   

After Speaker Agni Sapkota did not attend the Constitutional Council meeting on December 15, PM Oli introduced a new ordinance, which allows the Council to convene and make decision with the presence of only three members. Even the Cabinet was not informed of the decision, which has now been widely criticized for being anti-constitutional and undemocratic. Endorsing the controversial ordinance, President Bidya Devi Bhandari once again dragged herself into criticism, time and again compromising her sacred role to uphold the constitution.

Others: Nepal Police has directed all its units nationwide to increase their monitoring of Netra Bikram Chand Biplab-led NCP’s all activities. The instruction comes after a rise in the banned party’s violent activities. Nepal Army, too, has been instructed to increase their surveillance against the group.

The outlawed Netra Bikram Chand’s party has increased its violent activities, whereas the Home Ministry has issued a circulation to increase surveillance against the party’s activities. Meanwhile, some NCP leaders believe that the revolting group should be dealt more peacefully, through dialogues.

India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been working on improving relations with Nepali political parties. BJP’s chief of foreign department, Vijay Chauthaiwale, is currently on a visit to Nepal for the same.

As the constitutional obligation to resume the parliamentary session approaches, neither government nor the opposition Nepali Congress seems bothered about it. According to the constitution, parliamentary sessions should not exceed a six-month interval, which makes January 1, 2021, the last day of this six-month period since the constitution was uncharacteristically prorogued by the president owing to an internal NCP dispute. On the same note, Speaker Agni Sapkota reiterated the constitutional obligation to call the seventh parliamentary session by January 2, 2021.

Governance & Corruption

Land revenue office employees, Kharidar Bhuwan Keshan Khanal and Dhan Bahadur Budha, were caught taking Rs. 5,000 in bribes to facilitate change of land ownership. Electrical engineer Manoj Kumar Poudel of Sarlahi was caught taking Rs. 8,000 in bribes to increase electricity meter reading. NEA employee Krishna Ale of Tanahu was caught asking for Rs. 9000 in bribes from customers for official purposes. Foreign employment office employees located in Tahachal, Dhan Bahadur Tamang and Ramnanda Chaudhary were caught asking for Rs. 8000 in bribes from customers. Ward office employees in Rupandehi, Saroj Kumar Pandey and Shyambachan Yadav were caught asking for Rs. 20,000 in bribes from their customers. Land revenue office employee in Bharatpur, Manoj Kumar Niroula, was caught misappropriating funds worth Rs. 4,72,628. A case has been filed against him in the Special Court.

European Commission questions Nepal ‘s aviation safety standards. The ban on airlines from Nepal from flying into Europe reaches its eighth year.

Lack of funds leaves dozens of drinking water projects in Sudurpaschim Province incomplete for the past decade. Mohan Kunwar, chief engineer, said these projects will take 20 more years at this pace.

Government’s new foreigh policy document unveiled on Sunday, however, observers point out that it should have been prepared with wider consultations to address pertinent global issues.

Government imposes new requirements for people leaving on visit visas, including English language skills, insurance, etc, to curb illegal migration of workers. Critics have detracted from the imposition of these requirements.

Government amends law on rape, changing the text of Clause 221 of the Criminal Code 2017 from “woman or girl child” to “person”, implying that any person could be raped.

Lack of materials delays the construction of a four-lane bridge over Mahakali River in Kanchanpur district connecting Dohara Chandani Municipality with Bhimdatta Municipality.

Food management and Trading Company Limited begins supplying subsidised rice, removing the need for local residents of Dolpobuddha, Shey-Phoksundo, and Chharkatansong rural municipalities to buy rice in the market at exorbitant prices.

The Special Court ordered Deep Basnyat, ex – head of CIAA to be held in judicial custody for investigating charges of distributing government land in the name of fake tenants when he was secretary at the then Ministry of Physical Planning and Construction in 2010.

Pokhara Metropolitan City demolished structures built in Khapaudi around Phewa Lake, which breached the Phewa Lake Conservation Guidelines of not allowing any concrete structures to be built within 65 metres of the lake.

Nepal’s first wildlife hospital was inaugurated in Chitwan on Friday, nearly seven years after construction began with funds from the government, National Trust For Nature Conservation, Denver Zoo, and WWF Nepal.

Government plans an ambitious Surkhet Valley Drinking Water Project funded by federal, provincial, and local governments, which would supply water from the Bheri River to Birendranagar.

In the current fiscal year, Eighteen individuals in Rupandehi have been arrested for smuggling wildlife parts. They have been using Butwal as a transit point to transport these parts from Korala border point to China.

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