January 2023 Analysis: Federalism

Posted by : Rasila Dhamala


Date : 2023-01-30

Following the first provincial parliamentary meeting in the first week of January, the provincial government formation gained momentum. The coalition led by CPN-UML gave shape to the rest of the provinces, where all the chief ministers were appointed respectively. With the increase in financial expenditure and issues in power division amongst the ministries, some of the provinces decided to cut-off the number of ministries.

Timeline of Major Events

Date Events
1 January Province 1 held its first provincial meeting post elections
2 January Madhesh, Bagmati, Gandaki, Lumbini, Karnali and Sudurpaschim Province held their first provincial meeting after elections.
13 January Chief Ministers of Province 1 and Gandaki Province secure a vote of confidence.
17 January The Chief Minister of Bagmati Province secured a vote of confidence.
19 January The Chief Minister of Lumbini and Madhesh Province secured a vote of Confidence.
20 January The Chief Minister of Karnali Province secured a vote of confidence.

Government Formation

In the first week of January, all the provinces held their first provincial assembly meetings, which was followed by the oath taken by all the parliamentary members. Later, following the Federal Government formation by the coalition led by CPN UML, the same coalition formed the Provincial government in each province.

In Province 1, Hikmat Karki from CPN UML and in Madhesh Province, Saroj Kumar Yadav from Janata Samajwadi Party were appointed as the Chief Ministers. Likewise, Shalik Ram Jamarkattel from CPN Maoist, Khagaraj Adhikari from CPN UML and Leela Giri from CPN UML were appointed as Chief Ministers for Bagmati, Gandaki and Lumbini Provinces respectively. Similarly, Raj Kumar Sharma from CPN Maoist was appointed for Karnali Province and Rajendra Singh Rawal from CPN UML was appointed for Sudurpaschim Province as the Chief Minister.

In Province 1, Gandaki, Lumbini, CPN UML is set to form a government for the whole term of five years. In Bagmati, Karnali and Sudurpaschim, the two parties will be taking turns in heading the government i.e. Maoist centre will lead Bagmati and Karnali first; and UML will lead Sudurpaschim first. Meanwhile, for Madhesh Province, the government will be first led by Janata Samajwadi Party for the first half of the term and will be followed by Janamat Party. Before the government formation, Rastriya Prajatantra Party had demanded the role of Chief Minister of Bagmati Province, which was later negotiated to the speaker of the Federal Parliament.
CPN UML and Maoist being the larger parties have a good share of ministries in all provinces. In Madhesh Province, the ministers have been divided amongst UML, Maoist, Janamat Party and Janata Samajwadi Party. While the cabinet of every other province is now complete, Lumbini and Sudurpaschim are yet to decide on the ministers with their respective portfolios. In Sudurpaschim province, the Chief Minister Rajendra Rawal is yet to get the vote of confidence because of negotiations with Nagarik Unmukti Party, which has the most decisive role in the assembly.

The coalition parties decided on the division of roles of Speakers and Deputy Speakers as well. UML has its speakers in Madhesh, Karnali, Sudurpaschim and Deputy Speaker of Province 1, Gandaki, Bagmati and Lumbini. Meanwhile, Maoist centre has claimed Speakers of Province 1, Gandaki and Sudurpaschim and deputy speakers of Karnali. Rastriya Prajatantra Party claimed the speaker of Bagmati and deputy speaker of Lumbini Province. Janamat Party has a deputy speaker of Madhesh Province.

Ordinances tabled in the provincial assembly meetings

Province 1, Bagmati and Gandaki Province had their ordinances tabled at the first provincial meetings.
Province 1 had two ordinances tabled by the outgoing Minister of Internal affairs and Law, Kedar Karki, regarding the decisions on formation, operation and conditions of service of Provincial Civil Service; and to amend some provincial acts. Gandaki Province also had two ordinances tabled by the Outgoing Minister of Law, Communications and Provincial Assembly Affairs of the Provincial Government related to the formation, operation and conditions of service of the civil service of Gandaki Province 2022 and the Local Level (Formation and Operation) Ordinance 2022.

Bagmati Province had five ordinances tabled. The outgoing Minister of Internal Affairs and Law Krishna Prasad Sharma Khanal tabled the Ordinance related to providing for the formation, operation and conditions of service of the provincial civil service 2022 and to providing for the formation and operation of local level services 2022.The outgoing Culture and tourism minister Dipendra Shrestha, outgoing Agriculture and Livestock Development Minister Bashundhara Humagain, and outgoing Industry, Commerce and Supplies Minister Milan Babu Shrestha tabled ordinances on amend the Provincial Health Services Act 2018; the Ordinance to make provisions regarding the agricultural development of the province 2022; and the Ordinance to make arrangements for the establishment and operation of province handicraft villages, respectively.

Reduction of number of ministries in provincial government

Chief Ministers from different provinces have decided to reduce the number of ministries in the newly formed government. While Federalism in general has been in controversy for being an expensive system for a developing country like Nepal, provinces have been often targeted for raising the nation's expenditure. In this case, this step of provinces has been highly appreciated as it will help in financial transparency. This was first decided by Hikmat Karki, the Chief Minister of Province 1, followed by Bagmati, Gandaki and Lumbini provinces.

Province 1 decreased the number from 14 to 7, Bagmati Province from 14 to 11, Gandaki decided from 12 to 7 and Lumbini is yet to complete its cabinet.
The ministries were split and divided among the shareholders of the government to satisfy all of them in the past five years, following the scenario in the centre. The public has been unsatisfied given the financial burden it had created on the state. Whilst there are still issues related to clear division of roles and responsibilities of provincial government, such unnecessary split of ministries will cause overlapping of roles, duplication of efforts and lack of coordination, which leads to lack of accountability and inefficiency. As there exists a coalition government in each province, there still exists possibilities for splitting of ministries to appease all the aligned parties.

Inclusion in the government

The system of Nepal in theory enhances the inclusion with proportional representation in the parliament. While the inclusion and participation in the provincial assembly has been in question, the government formation is no different than that. There are no female chief ministers among the seven provinces. Similar scenario is in the case of the speaker's appointment as well. Among seven speakers, only one, CPN-UML's Nanda Gurung, is female. Meanwhile, all the deputy speakers are female. Females are confined as the deputy speakers just because the constitution requires there should be at least a female speaker or deputy speaker in the provincial assembly. The way political parties are allocating the roles, it seems like the appointment was done merely to show the political parties care about inclusion.

It is quite similar in case of ethnic representation as well. Among the seven chief ministers, only one minister from Madhesh Pradesh is from Madhesi community, others are from Khas Arya Community. Although there has been significant representation of the Aadibasi Janajati and marginalised community in case of speakers and deputy speakers, it is still not enough. The political composition of parties shows that despite having people from different communities in the central politburo, they have still failed to appoint people from different communities in the roles. This is because of how the culture of mainstream political parties has continued throughout the years. The ones from different communities have not been able to challenge the party decisions and represent their background, which is very disappointing.

The political parties should start looking for ways to genuinely promote inclusion and representation in their front, then only we can expect more in this field. Our constitution also lacks as it fails to mention what consequences shall one face if they fail to follow the representation guaranteed by the constitution.