‘This govt does not have mandate to fail’

The ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) initiated its unification process six months ago. So far, unification has been completed at the central level, not at the provincial and local levels. This has exerted immense pressure on the party leadership to complete the unification process at all levels. Rewati Sapkota of  The Himalayan Times met NCP Spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha to discuss this issue and the performance of the government. Excerpts:

The government recently decided not to make Cabinet decisions public immediately. Many see this as violation of people’s right to information. Is the government promoting authoritarianism?

I don’t think so. The government has said Cabinet decisions should be revealed after they mature. It has not said it will not make the decisions public. The system adopted by the government was in place before 2006. It was only after 2006 that the government started making Cabinet decisions public on the day of the meeting.

Your party’s stated policy is to institutionalise political achievements of the past and aspire for better results. Isn’t the move to revert to the pre-2006 system regressive?

The government’s intention is not to hide Cabinet decisions. Journalists expect the Cabinet to make its decisions public right after the meetings are over. But the government has decided to reveal the Cabinet’s decisions after a while so that journalists can disseminate matured information.

How can the country achieve prosperity if the government continues to add tax burden on people and curtail public rights?

That is not the case. We’re not trying to curtail people’s right to information. With regard to taxes, we can revisit those decisions and make adjustments. The federal government has not imposed taxes indiscriminately.

When communists are in power, governments generally abide by the party’s instructions. But this does not seem to be the case with the NCP. What is your take?

The ruling party’s ideologies and election manifesto should serve as the guiding principles for the government. We are seriously monitoring these issues. We will assess the government and Parliament’s performance in the upcoming party secretariat and standing committee meetings. We will take appropriate decisions so that the party, government and Parliament can move forward accordingly.

Your party’s manifesto and the government’s policies, programmes and budget contradict, don’t you think so?

The government introduced its policies and programmes based on the party’s election manifesto. However, questions have been raised after the annual budget was released. We will discuss these issues in the upcoming meetings.

What about the note of dissent that you registered recently after provincial chiefs of the party were nominated?

It was a reminder that the party should abide by its rules and regulations during the decision-making process. It’s not only me; other party colleagues have also expressed disagreement and dissatisfaction with some of the party’s decisions. This is normal. The erstwhile CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre had realised that socialist forces would trail behind if people’s democracy failed to function properly. The two parties had merged to avoid such a situation. The unified party has agreed not to repeat mistakes of the past and correct weaknesses at all levels. This is why intra-party democracy is essential so that there are check and balance.

The party has not been able to hold meetings of various committees, which is delaying the party unification process at lower levels. Who is responsible for this?

The party secretariat is responsible for this delay. We cannot blame others and must acknowledge our mistakes.

Are the two co-chairs responsible for this delay?

The Secretariat is the body at the highest level of the party hierarchy and consists of senior party leaders. So, it should take responsibility for the delay in holding meetings of the standing and central committees. The meetings of these committees must be called immediately. These meetings will pave the way to publicise the party’s political document, unify the party at the provincial and local levels and assess the government’s performance.

Why can’t the 441-member central committee function without chairpersons?

The party’s central committee meeting can only be held under the leadership of chairpersons. It could create chaos if the central committee calls the meeting itself without the consent of party chairpersons. So, we will not allow this. It’s been six months since we started the party unification process. But it has not concluded till date. Nobody had thought it would take such a long time to complete these tasks. This is why many have started to lose their patience. I sincerely hope that the party secretariat meeting will be held soon so that we can finalise various proposals and forward them to the standing committee for approval.

How long will it take to complete all these tasks?

They should be completed as soon as possible. We do not have any time left. The party still has a lot to do. It must recruit party members in provincial committees, unify district committees and sister organisations of the erstwhile CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre, and form commissions, departments, national advisory committee and national council.

Would it be safe to say that the party leadership is not performing as per the expectations of party members?

The decision to unite the two parties was a historic move in Nepali politics. Yes, there is some level of frustration and dissatisfaction in the party. But this frustration and dissatisfaction will dissipate once we complete unification at the provincial and local levels, and make the government result-oriented. So, the party must formally evaluate the government’s performance and complete the unification process at lower levels.

How do you assess the government’s performance?

It’s not even been a year since the new government took office. During this period, it has been able to maintain an independent foreign policy and strengthen relations with both neighbouring countries by upholding national interest. It has also strengthened relations with other international powers. The government has also formulated necessary laws on fundamental rights to implement the constitution. The government, however, is facing some problems in institutionalising federalism because of the delay in transferring staff from federal to provincial and local levels and lack of provincial and local laws. But the government has taken initiatives to overcome these challenges. The government should now focus on effective public service delivery, corruption control, good governance and ramp up development works.

What should the government focus on?

It must control massive corruption and irregularities. The government must ensure good governance and take steps to eradicate corruption. Prosperity will be a far-fetched goal if the government cannot control corruption. The government should also make short, mid and long-term plans and programmes on the basis of the party’s election manifesto.

Why is the government trying to fill the vacuum created by lack of legislative frameworks with ordinances rather than calling the House to endorse the laws?

Ordinances should be the last resort in a democracy. I hope the government will realise this and follow the democratic path.

It appears the federal and provincial governments have locked horns on many issues, including formulation of laws, doesn’t it?

We have adopted the federal system of government for the first time, so we are bound to face some problems. Some of the countries have taken decades to institutionalise federalism because it is a complicated process. I’ve heard that the federal government has called the first meeting of the inter-provinces council to sort out differences. Of course, there will be disputes and problems, but we have to resolve them as per the constitutional provisions and move forward.

Provincial governments and assemblies, most of which are under the ruling party’s control, are not functioning properly either. Why?

Yes, they have not been able to perform their roles properly. Provinces should understand that federalism is not only about decentralisation but the complete devolution of power. In other words, provinces are autonomous and can enjoy rights guaranteed by the constitution. But, in the present context, they seem to be limiting their roles to waiting for federal fund transfers. They should take initiatives on their own too.

What will happen if the government with two-thirds majority fails to deliver results?

This government does not have the mandate to fail. If this government failed, it would not only be interpreted as the failure of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and his team of ministers but the failure of the Communist movement in Nepal.