The irony! The two co-chairmen of the ruling NCP, KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal, were on Jan 7 exploring ways to develop a common understanding on key national issues with Sher Bahadur Deuba, the leader of the Nepali Congress, the main opposition. A day later, Congress parliamentary party meeting endorsed a ‘shadow government’ to expose the executive’s wrongdoing. Whatever Deuba told his communist counterparts, the NC wants to corner the Oli government at a time when public dissatisfaction with its functioning is mounting. This shadow government will comprise federal MPs who will be given the responsibility of keeping a close tab on the workings of the assigned ministries. The NC feels its current criticism of the government on the purchase of two wide-body aircraft from Airbus; on Oli bringing tax and spy agencies, and big-tickets projects, under the PMO; on Nirmala Pant; and on healthcare reform is feeble, as the party lacks hard data to back up its anti-Oli tirades. By closely following individual ministries, the NC hopes to amass enough incriminating evidence with which to embarrass the government.
This shadow government will comprise federal MPs
Formation of shadow governments is a common practice in Westminster-style democracies, helping with checks and balances. The idea remains untested in Nepal. Whether it will work may be the wrong question. A more pertinent one is: Why now? Badly humiliated in the three tier elections in 2017, there seemed to be no way back for the faction-ridden Grand Old Party. Yet PM Oli’s 10-month report card has been so dismal that the NC now feels confident of its ability to cash in on the growing anti-Oli public sentiment.
Following PM Oli’s address to the parliament on Jan 6, Congress MPs obstructed the house when they were stopped from questioning the prime minister. After initially resisting the pressure from the opposition, Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara eventually relented, and directed the prime minister to answer questions raised in the parliament. Whatever the response to NC questions, the opposition will protest. The goal, on either side, is not to find amicable solutions to pressing issues but to defame the other side.
With both sides determined to play hardball, this war of words is sure to escalate, hampering lawmaking. The parliament needs to update 165 laws in two months to make the federal setup functional. But the NC is determined to cry foul and create hurdles every step of the way.