Confirming months of speculation, the nine-member secretariat of the ruling Nepal Communist Party has nominated senior leader Bamdev Gautam as a member of the National Assembly, the federal upper house. Meanwhile, the party task-force to amend the constitution to allow even members of the National Assembly to be chosen as prime minister has been disbanded. Gautam had been insistent that he would decline the assembly nomination until his path to the PM’s chair was cleared through the amendment.
Gautam could now finagle the post of a senior deputy-prime minister in the Oli government, and from there he will steadily work towards realizing his long-desired dream of becoming the country’s executive head. Oli, in this reading, will be forced to give Gautam, a kingmaker in the secretariat, a powerful government post if he is to retain his hold on the party, which has been steadily slipping away as another co-chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal amasses power, partly with Gautam’s help.
Amending the national charter to clear the way for a single person’s political ascent would always have been tricky. The NCP bigwigs thus wanted to keep the proposal hush-hush. But when the word got out, there was an instant backlash, not just from outside the party but as vociferously from inside it. The proposal was dropped.
Yet this shocking development was the perfect illustration of how our senior politicians can easily trade away national interests for personal gains. While amending the constitution in Gautam’s favor, the majority members of the nine-member NCP secretariat were apparently also thinking of addressing some demands of the Madhesi parties related to the constitution—in return for their backing for the proposal for the election of PM via the National Assembly. In the same round of amendments, the ceremonial president would also be given more powers. In other words, senior ruling party leaders were bent on wrecking the new constitution by abusing the party’s two-thirds majority in the lower house.
No wonder the two-year record of the Oli government has been so dismal. Instead of embarking on the path to prosperity and implementation of federalism, ruling party leaders spent most of this time jockeying for power. Gautam, the wily old politician who miraculously lost in the last elections, will not let anything hinder his march up the political ladder. In the end, the fact that most members of the NCP secretariat see no problem in handing over the country’s executive powers to someone without public mandate speaks volumes about the party’s democratic credentials.