News Digest – Politics & Governance (March 11 – March 17, 2021)


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Politics & Democracy

Nepal Communist Party–Unified Marxist Leninist (NCP–UML): NCP–UML leader and ex-prime minister Jhala Nath Khanal speculated that a new power game will begin in the parliament and wished that the current NCP–UML government should continue for the remaining two years of its term. However, senior leader Madhav Nepal complained that nobody had reached out to him on whether or not the government should be saved and continued.

NCP–UML’s deputy parliamentary leader Subash Nembang said that the government is positive about JSPN’s demands about Resham Chaudhary’s release, withdrawal of Madhes/Tharuhat movement-related cases, and constitutional amendment.

There are two clear positions about the government’s continuation within the ruling NCP–UML, with one wishing to collaborate with JSPN and the other to continue a Communist reign.

In Dhangadhi, supporters of Bhim Rawal (Madhav Nepal group) clashed with Karna Thapa (Oli group)’s supporters, when the latter group tried to replace Rawal’s door-tag, in the party’s provincial office, with Lekh Raj Bhatta’s.

Deputy Prime Minister Ishwor Pokharel claimed that there will be a reunification between NCP–UML and NCP–MC, on new terms and understanding.

On March 12, PM Oli faction’s meeting unilaterally stripped off all party positions and responsibilities of Madhav Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal faction’s leaders—giving a rise to an inter-party struggle. PM Oli also finalized the dates (Nov 18-22, 2021) for NCP–UML’s general convention. The Oli faction’s meeting also rewarded standing committee and central committee membership to 23 former NCP–MC leaders who decided to stick with Oli.

Following Oli’s move, the Nepal faction immediately called a standing committee meeting. The Nepal-Khanal faction concluded that PM Oli is headed towards NCP–UML’s demise. The faction also called for a national gathering of its party workers on March 17 , 2021.

The Nepal faction also wrote a letter to the Election Commission, asking the constitutional body not to give legitimacy to PM Oli’s unilateral decisions.

The new developments within the party has heightened the possibility of a vertical split. Leaders belonging to the Nepal faction made some serious accusation against Oli for being irresponsible and destructive.

PM Oli, Nepal, and Khanal met on March 15—after four months. According to Raghuji Panta, the meeting was a positive development. The party’s secretary and Deputy PM Ishwor Pokharel claimed that the meeting decided to take the party forward by keeping it united. However, later reports revealed a confrontation between the two factions, with the Nepal faction asking Oli to reverse his March 12 decisions and the latter refusing to do so; this has taken the intra-party tussle to a new height.

PM Oli reached out to Dahal over phone and proposed an in-person meeting, to which the latter declined.

Nepal Communist Party–Maoist Centre (NCP–MC): NCP–MC chief Dahal wishes to continue fighting the battle against regression by spending time among people and launching a nationwide campaign again.

After the issue was raised in the party’s standing committee meeting, Dahal appears intent on changing the party’s name.

Dahal urged the Dalit community to stay prepared for a peaceful movement.

The NCP–MC instructed seven ministers from its party to resign from the government and return to the party.

The Exercise to Form an Alternative Government: The four political parties in the parliament have begun a race of meetings and negotiations to decide the future of Nepal government.

NCP–MC: The Nepal Communist Party–Maoist Centre (NCP–MC) chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal held a meeting with Janata Samajwadi Party Nepal (JSPN) leaders on March 10; the meeting happened according to the NCP–MC’s central committee’s decision to consult both Nepali Congress (NC) and JSPN about government formation.

Janata Samajwadi Party-Nepal: With the changed political environment following the Supreme Court’s decision to take the NCP back to its pre-merger state, JSPN has become a crucial player in the power equation now. The party has decided to extend support to those who address their demands—acquittal and release of lawmaker Resham Chaudhary, dismissal of all charges related to Madhes/Tharuhat movement, and a long due constitutional amendment. JSPN’s meeting on March 11 decided to hold meetings with the three political parties and reach a conclusion about their position.

JSPN president Upendra Yadav, however, stated that his party can have no collaboration with the Oli government, which clouds the party’s clarity and makes them a victim of indecision once again.

After PM Oli’s assurance that the government was ready and willing to address JSPN’s demand, the party began its parliamentary party meeting—to change its statute and decide on its leader. However, the meeting ended without finalizing on its statute.

On March 12, JSPN held a meeting with Nepali Congress at Deuba’s residence in Budhanilkantha; the party proposed that the three parties—NCP–MC, NC, and JSPN—should come together and unseat PM Oli. The three parties held a decisive joint meeting on March 15 to discuss government formation.

JSPN is indecisive because of Deuba’s indecision.

Nepali Congress: Despite the offers to lead the new government, Nepali Congress stays undecided on its position—with its leaders making statements and speculations but no action:

Gagan Thapa: The communist leaders should apologize with the public for disrespecting their mandate.

Ram Chandra Poudel: Nepali democracy and Nepali Congress are both under threat. (To Deuba) We do not have anything to do with Oli; let’s unseat his government.

Sher Bahadur Deuba: It is time to fight against the communist.

President Summons the Political Parties: President Bidya Devi Bhandari called an all-party meeting at her residence on March 16, 2021.

While Deuba and Dahal were silent, PM Oli appeared defensive of his moves and his government during the all-party meeting. He said that if the government and the parliament do not run, he would dissolve the parliament again.

Miscellaneous: Prime minister and NCP–UML chief KP Oli rushed out of the parliament without attending the March 10 meeting. After PM Oli left, the meeting’s agenda were changed, and it was eventually called off to be held again on March 16.

Netra-Bikram Chand Biplab-led NCP and Karnajit Budhathoki-led NCP–MC reached a three-point agreement, with a possible unification in the future.

Corruption & Governance

Observers have criticised House Speaker Agni Sapkota for not calling the Business Advisory Committee meeting and not maintaining neutrality—he had filed a writ petition, which are usually reserved for private persons, against appointments to the constitutional bodies by KP Oli and the Office of the President, and Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana.

Four people have been detained for possessing 2.5 kg of radioactive material at a home in Boudha. An officer of Kathmandu Metropolitan Police Range said that one of the arrestee’s father-in-law used to work at a uranium mine in India two decades ago. A spokesperson for the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology said that they are yet to verify if the material is uranium-238.

The Supreme Court has not yet heard the case for appointments made to constitutional bodies based on a controversial ordinance introduced by KP Oli. The parliamentary hearing committee, which makes decisions on such appointments, ceased to exist after Oli dissolved the house. Rule 26 (2) of the Joint Parliamentary Meeting Regulation of the federal parliament outlines that the appointments will be made if the hearing committee does not make a decision within 45 days.

23 central members of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) have not clarified their position on which party they hold allegiance to. On Sunday, a Central Committee of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) sought written clarification to their position and party allegiance. Out of the 23, seven are ministers in the Oli Cabinet. The committee plans to decide action on the member’s responses, sacking those who decide to side with Oli.

The Jaya Krishna Goit faction of the Janatantrik Tarai Mukti Morcha (Revolutionary), claimed responsibility for a pressure cooker bomb blast at the Land Revenue Office in Lahan Municipality, Siraha, on March 14. The group claimed that the blast was a symbol of protest against criminal activities and corruption in Madhes.

President Bidya Devi Bhandari, on March 16, called an all-party meeting. A senior communication at the Office of the President said that the president called the former prime ministers and leaders of political parties represented in the parliament in the meeting.

Although the voter registration was delayed because of the pandemic and snap elections being announced, the Election Commission is now preparing to resume the voter registration program this week, according to the Chief Election Commissioner at the Election Commission.

House Speaker Agni Sapkota stopped the law minister from presenting eight Oli administration ordinances, including one related to an amendment to the Constitution Council (Functions, Duties and Procedures) Act-2010 and adjourned the house without resuming it.

At an all-party meeting called by President Bidya Devi Bhandari, critics pointed out that President Bidya Devi Bhandari endorsed KP Oli dissolving the House and suggested that such a move should be made again.

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