By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
K.P. Oli took over as Prime Minister in mid-February. It is still too early to judge his performance in five months of his rule. Yet, all indicators point to a disappointing performance. The dissatisfaction of both the Press and the Public with the government are very palpable and the daily newspapers do not waste a moment to criticise the government on some issue or other. One of the Analysts had described Oli’s government as “Oliyarchy”
Oli had won a stunning majority on a platform of nationalism and a promise of economic prosperity and social progress. He promised an eight percent growth and a per capita income of 5000 $ in five years. Yet the steps taken by him so far do not give any hope of such development and promises remain only as promises.
Nationalism is a very sensitive and yet a dangerous issue. History has shown that nationalism was misused to exploit the people. Oli has come to power on a strong appeal for nationalism but it has to be followed by good governance which is lacking.
Still, it looks that Oli has been harshly judged. May be, his style of functioning with no holds barred is not liked by many including those in the Government. Oli is also not seen to be getting any support from his party colleagues either and even the normally active Maoist leaders like Dahal are mostly silent and perhaps enjoying the discomfiture of the Prime Minister!
To his credit, Oli started off very well. He ended the transport syndicate which had been looting the public with official support. Despite international objections, he forced the UN to close its Political Affairs office. He placed regulations on the activities of “foreign Volunteers” and barred construction activities on cultivable land. His Home Minister began well by making the contractors accountable for fulfilling the contracts on time and fining them if they do not do so in time. And there it ended.
In spite of having a two third majority and being assured of a full term of five years, Oli’s government gives the feeling of being under “siege”. The frustration of the Prime Minister is seen when he deals with criticism with disdain and arrogant satirical responses even in the Parliament!
The opposition- the Nepali Congress is seen to be deeply insecure and is not acting as a powerful opposition party. Besides poor leader ship with not so competent Deuba in charge, the party is only indulging in picking holes and not making any constructive suggestion and it does not seem to have any vision either. The party has not yet attempted to win over Terai which had been consistently electing them to the Parliament. Their stand towards constitutional amendments is also not known. The only good development is that younger leaders like Gagan Thapa are being given more space!
Oli has also not handled a few major issues that are critical and that needed his personal attention and prompt action. Some of his actions done with good intention have not had the support of the people. In two instances the Supreme Court had to issue Stay orders.
Consider the following-
* The government has been slow in spending on capital projects. With just a month left, more than fifty percent of development budget was not spent. The result- the Government went on a spending spree with no regulations or control at the last moment. On one day alone, on 17th June- the Government issued official bank cheques to the tune of 33 Billion Rupees, all in a hurry to meet the deadline. Any strict control exhibited by the Government towards the Contractors in the beginning vanished with PM’s colleague and a member of UML Raghubir Mahaseth taking a soft line towards the Contractors towards the end.
* In handling the case of Dr. Govinda KC, the Government took a firm line initially only to give in later on the issue of medical education. In the process, Dr. Govinda who is a maverick got huge support not only from the public but also from those in medical services. There was some merit in Dr. Govinda’s demand as many big wigs were actually planning to make money by opening new medical colleges to make up for the loss in running hospitals. Dr. Govinda is not new to hunger strikes and this time in Jumla it was the fourteenth time. The Government took too long a time by which time, the public took over the issue in support of reforms and the government had to finally give in. It was messy and showed poor statesmanship!
* Similarly, the Government appeared to be insensitive in Ganga Maya’s case who was on hunger strike again to bring justice to her son who was murdered by the Maoists during the insurgency. The father of the deceased son Nanda Prasad died on September 2014 on the 334th day of hunger strike after fighting for justice for over ten years. The Government did nothing to take action against the known perpetrators of the murder! People know why no action is being taken.
* Over 20,000 Quake victims will be spending their fourth monsoon under tents. Rehabilitation work has been very slow. So is the implementation of transitional justice. The victims of the insurgency period are still waiting for justice.
* The Government declared certain areas in the capital as “no protect zone” which included Matighar Mandala close to the Singha Durbar and declared certain specified places in the city where demonstrations will be allowed. The Government had a case, as protest demonstrations were disturbing the normal life of the people and yet it had no support even from the party men of the UML. The Supreme Court has stayed the order.
* The Government had rightly issued termination notices for the politically appointed Staff recruited during the previous regime and the Court has again stayed the order. The political appointees by the very nature of appointment should have voluntarily resigned but they did not do so. The Government’s action though justified was seen by the press and other leaders as one of high handedness!
* No move has so far been made to amend the Constitution that was promised to one of the Madhesi groups that joined the Government. The other Madhesi Group the RJP N is likely to withdraw its support soon as a protest against the inaction of the Government. Oli made a strange statement that if some people were adversely affected, the Constitution should be amended. Beyond this statement there has been no action.
As a seasoned politician, Oli knows very well that people who had very high expectations are feeling let down. It is time he changes his style of functioning and ensure that the people have confidence in him and his Government.