News Digest – Domestic Politics & Governance (October 29- November 4, 2020)

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Puppeteering

Domestic Politics

Nepal Communist Party (NCP): The recent ambassadorial appointment, cabinet reshuffle, vote of no-confidence motion in Karnali, and PM Oli’s meeting with India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief Samant Goel has yet again peaked an intra-party struggle in the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP). With the fresh

PM Oli continued to try and convince NCP co-chair Dahal by sending his multiple messengers including Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali, party’s general secretary and Finance Minister Bishnu Poudel, Lumbini’s CM Shanker Pokharel, Gandaki’s CM Prithvi Subba Gurung, deputy parliamentary party leader Subas Nembang. However, Dahal remains unconvinced and deeply dissatisfied with Oli’s unilateral moves that defy the September 11 agreement.

Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali stated that the party would not be facing a crisis if both the chiefs abided by the Standing Committee-defined responsibilities.

In a meeting with party co-chair Dahal, PM Oli suggested that they should rather part ways and split the party if anyone had issues with him. Oli’s statement has worried party leaders who are against a split. NCP’s spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha urged the leaders to immediately hold a secretariat meeting to discuss the issues.

Frustrated with Oli’s lack of commitment to his words, NCP’s deputy chair Bamdev Gautam and Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa are likely to take Dahal’s side this time around. While the Nepal-Dahal faction is reportedly preparing for a vote of no-confidence against PM Oli, President Bidhya Devi Bhandari summoned Gautam at Sital Niwas and asked him to help preserve the party unity, just like he has done before.

With the ongoing struggle within the ruling party, everyone’s focus has shifted to anticipating what PM Oli’s next ‘big action; will be; some of his likely political/constitutional moves include alliance with Madhav Nepal, federal cabinet reshuffle, parliament’s dissolution and mid-term election, party split through new ordinances, and so on.

Nepali Congress (NC): Though a press statement, the opposition Nepali Congress has urged the government to take rescue the students who were attacked in Dehradun, India.

NC is set to host its central committee meeting on November 6, 2020.

At a time when the government has shown no interest in resuming the parliamentary session, NC has begun discussions about convening parliamentary session in its leadership.

As the party’s general convention approaches, NC’s factional differences continue to exist, with the Poudel faction adamantly accusing Deuba faction of overlooking party processes, rules, and regulations, while Deuba faction claims that these accusations are merely electoral stunts.

Miscellaneous: Referring to PM Oli’s meeting with RAW chief Samanta Goel, Rashtriya Prajatantra Party’s president Kamal Thapa warned that Nepal is becoming a battleground for international powers.

Although the constitution requires the Constitutional Council to recommend names for office-bearers a month before the commissions become vacant, none of the 13 constitutional commissions currently ‘has full quota of office bearers,’ which is clearly a breach of the constitution.

The government has decided to remove the ‘federal democratic republic’ part of from its official name and rather call it “Nepal” in all formal communications and addresses.

Governance

Due to a ‘lack of resources and land acquisition disputes,’ several national pride projects, including the Mid-Hill Highway, the Hulaki Rajmarga, the Kathmandu-Nijgadh Fast Track, and three north-south roads, are facing delays in their implementation

About three dozen international TV channels were interrupted after the government decided to implement the new clean feed policy. The government had introduced the policy last year and had given a year ultimatum to the channels to broadcast without advertisements. With the full implementation of the plan, Nepal’s advertisement market is likely to increase by two folds, although customers might have to face up to 25% of hike in cable prices.

A week after the murder of the NCP’s district member Mukesh Chaurasiya in Birgunj, a murder case was filed against 12 including Constitution Assembly member Rajkumar Gupta.

On October 29, the government decided to stop the daily health briefings by from the Ministry of Health and rather report biweekly. Many welcomed the decision, for it was nothing but a mere reminder of the government’s failure to handle the pandemic.

The World Bank approved the Rural Enterprise and Economic Development (REED) project worth USD 80 million, which will help boost Nepal’s agriculture sector by linking markets to rural enterprises, specially led by women. Similarly, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) provided a grant of USD125,000 to the Good Bricks System to help them reduce its harmful impact on the environment and health.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic upset the government’s plan to issue national identity cards to some 10 million people within the next fiscal year, it is planning to issue a tender for the print and supply’ of the cards of the people whose details have already been collected.

Following a massive criticism for discontinuing free tests and treatment for COVID-19 patients, the government reversed its decision on November 1 and stated that free tests will continue ‘based on contract tracing.’ However, the government has reiterated its ‘inability’ to conduct free tests and treatment and has registered a case in the Supreme Court demanding the court to reverse its earlier order made to the government.

According to the Finance Ministry statistics, NRs. 3.88 billions of public fund was spent for the health and treatment of political leaders and VIPs since 2006.

According to the suggestions of tourism professionals, the government has decided to allow tourists from all countries to visit Nepal from November 16. The requirement of seven days of mandatory quarantine has been reduced to three days and that of 72 hours PCR report has been changed to 92 hours.

Foreign Minister has ordered the Insurance Committee to implement the reimbursement of COVID-19 insurance to all patients within seven days.

Speaking at an inauguration event on November 4, PM Oli reiterated that he will not resign as the prime minister at any cost. He also made it clear that he became the country’s prime minister not on any whims but rather due to necessity and people’s support.

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