Lockdown

News Digest (September 3-9, 2020)

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Domestic Politics

Nepal Communist Party (NCP): As the infighting NCP seemed headed towards a peaceful resolution of its intra-party conflicts, leader Bamdev Gautam’s renewed interest in joining the National Assembly (NA) has invited fresh round of disagreement. The secretariat meeting scheduled to discuss the taskforce recommendation will likely mull over PM Oli’s conviction to continue finance minister Yuvaraj Khatiwada by taking him to NA and Gautam’s demand to implement the party’s earlier decision and rather take him to the NA.[1]

According to some sources, PM Oli has proposed to send both Khatiwada and Gautam to the NA by asking a NA member—possibly Ram Narayan Bidari— to step down.[2][3]

In the party’s secretariat meeting on September 3, PM Oli himself stated that he will implement the party’s earlier decision and send Bamdev Gautam to the NA. According to the taskforce’s recommendation, a cabinet reshuffle will soon happen, where Gautam will reportedly seek to be the finance and deputy prime minister.[4] Meanwhile, leader Madhav Nepal is unhappy with some of the recommendations made by the taskforce and believes that they need to be corrected.[5]

Despite finance minister Yuvaraj Khatiwada’s resignation and different speculations about a cabinet reshuffle, PM Oli has showed no urgency to either send Gautam to the NA nor to reshuffle the cabinet. He seems to be in a ‘wait and watch’ situation and will make decision when he can milk out maximum bargain out of the situation.[6]

With PM Oli’s decision to take Gautam to the NA and Gautam’s determination to be a minister, legal experts started debating the constitutionality of making an individual who lost the election a minister. The constitutional ambiguity hinges on articles 78(4) and 76(9), as the former ‘bars Gautam’s appointment as a minister’ while the latter gives the prerogative to the prime minister.’[7] However, it is speculated that PM Oli will delay Gautam’s recommendation to the NA and appointment as a minister until another major crisis within the party resurfaces.[8]

Oli and Dahal agreed to call the party’s standing committee meeting on September 11, 2020. The meeting will discuss the old agendas as well as the taskforce’s recommendations.[9]

In a press statement, the Bibeksheel Party pointed out four reasons why PM Oli should not appoint Gautam to the NA and offer him a ministerial post.[10]

Nepali Congress (NC): Despite his strong willingness to head the party and, hopefully, the government, NC leader Ram Chandra Poudel faces several obstacles—including within his own faction. He is particularly unhappy with his comparison with Deuba who has already been the party’s chief and the prime minister multiple times.[11]

Owing to the delay in distributing active membership and forming interim structures in the districts, leaders from Poudel and Situala factions of the opposition Nepali Congress accuse president Deuba of trying to postpone the general convention.[12]

In a virtual discussion organized by himself, NC leader Dr. Shekhar Koirala accused the ruling NCP of destroying Nepal’s relationship with external actor and of not responding to the public’s dire circumstances.[13]

September 9 marks the 107th birth anniversary of the NC leader and Nepal’s first elected Prime Minister BP Koirala.[14]

The general secretary of Nepali Congress Dr. Shashank Koirala contracted the COVID-19 virus and is in an isolation at home.[15]

Governance

COVID – 19: The District Administration Officers (DAO) of three districts, Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur decided to continue the lockdown in the valley with some relaxations in businesses and vehicular movements.[16] Vehicles will be allowed movement on odd even basis.[17] However, vehicles will be restricted entry into Kathmandu valley. Businesses like shopping malls will be allowed to run only on certain conditions following strict health protocols. Shops selling food items, poultry, dairy will be allowed to run until 11am and again at 5pm to 7pm. The Health Ministry, however, recommended an extension on the lockdown for at least 7 more days.[18]

Railway Contract: The government cancelled the process it had started to select contractors for the construction of a section of the East-West Railway track. The Kakadbhitta – Inaruwa section has been under controversy after the public and the media suspected the procedure involved irregularities.[19] Locals of the areas who would be affected by the railway track also launched protests against the project.

Yubaraj Khatiwada resigns:[20] Yubaraj Khatiwada, Minister of Finance and Communication and Information Technology, tendered his resignation a day after the Nepal Communist Party decided not to appoint him to the National Assembly. The appointment was crucial to him to continue as minister. Khatiwada was re-appointed as finance minister on March 4. Both ministries under him have now come under PM Oli.


[1] https://kathmandupost.com/politics/2020/09/03/ruling-party-has-a-host-of-issues-to-deal-with-but-it-is-dealing-with-ambitions-of-a-leader-who-lost-the-elections

[2] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/50456/2020-09-03

[3] http://annapurnapost.com/news/165247

[4] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/50528/2020-09-04

[5] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/50518/2020-09-03

[6] https://ekantipur.com/news/2020/09/05/159926561353624839.html

[7] https://kathmandupost.com/politics/2020/09/06/can-gautam-become-a-minister-depends-which-article-gets-invoked

[8] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/09/07/gautam-to-the-upper-house-and-then-cabinet-may-invite-more-trouble-for-oli-than-succour-insiders-say

[9] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/50774/2020-09-08

[10] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/bibeksheel-nepali-gives-pm-four-reasons-why-gautam-should-not-be-appointed-national-assembly-member/

[11] https://ekantipur.com/news/2020/09/05/159926573001578090.html

[12] https://kathmandupost.com/politics/2020/09/07/nepali-congress-leaders-trade-verbal-barbs-over-14th-general-convention

[13] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/50762/2020-09-07

[14] https://deshsanchar.com/2020/09/09/409555/

[15] https://deshsanchar.com/2020/09/08/409414/

[16] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/odd-even-rule-for-vehicles-to-be-implemented-from-thursday/

[17]https://kathmandupost.com/national/2020/09/09/restrictions-in-valley-to-continue-for-one-more-week-but-with-some-relaxations-on-businesses-and-vehicular-movements

[18] https://english.onlinekhabar.com/health-ministry-officials-want-kathmandu-prohibitory-order-extended-again.html

[19] https://english.onlinekhabar.com/after-widespread-protest-govt-cancels-railway-contract-procedure.html

[20] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/finance-minister-khatiwada-tenders-resignation/

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