For the first time in Nepal's parliamentary history, lawmakers are free to cast their votes without having to abide by the whips

The eighth session of the House of Representatives (HoR) began on Sunday following the mandamus order of the Supreme Court on July 12. Reinstating the dissolved HoR for the second time, the apex court had ordered the President and the government to call the House session within one week of the verdict and had also ordered President Bidhya Devi Bhandari to appoint Nepali Congress parliamentary party leader Sher Bahadur Deuba as the prime minister as per Article 76 (5) of the constitution, validating his claim that he had the backing of as many as 146 lawmakers from more than two political parties represented in the HoR. President Bhandari had dissolved the parliament and set new dates for the mid-term elections on November 12 and 19 at the recommendation of then prime minister KP Sharma Oli, stating that both Deuba and Oli could not present the "basis" of forming the new government with the backing of majority of the lawmakers. Deuba will have to win the vote of confidence of the House within 30 days from the date of its first meeting.

It is not clear how the House businesses will proceed ahead. The most unusual part of this session is that some lawmakers from the CPN-UML and Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP) will be supporting Deuba while staying in the opposition. The apex court has already ruled that the parliamentary party whip could not be applied to them when they cast their votes to choose a government under Article 76 (5).

The concerned political parties also cannot take action against such lawmakers.

This means, it will give enough room for horse trading, a sign which has already been seen even before the start of the House session as some of the lawmakers, who had earlier supported Oli's move, have already hinted at switching over to Deuba despite their parties' decision to vote against him.

Another challenging task for the Deuba government is whether it will bring a new fiscal budget or give continuity to the old one brought by the then Oli-led government through an ordinance on May 28. Newly-appointed Finance Minister Janardan Sharma has already said they would bring a new budget if they can prove their majority in the House, otherwise the old one will continue to remain effective.

As Deuba has come to power, the fate of as many as 16 ordinances issued by the Oli government hangs in the balance. The Deuba government will be facing a tough time when it comes to dealing with an ordinance related to the Constitutional Council Act, which paved the way for appointing persons to the constitutional bodies and ambassadors on a majority basis, even without the presence of the main opposition leader. This is one of the ordinances which had drawn widespread criticism from all the political parties now in the government. As the CPN-UML is in the opposition bench, PM Deuba will not be able to make any appointment in the constitutional bodies and vacant ambassadorial posts should he intend to scrap the ordinance. Should the government intend to replace the existing budget with a new one, it will take at least one month to pass it through the parliament, which will have a negative impact on the fiscal calendar.

A stitch in time

The monsoon is far from over, and what the rains might do to our highways in the weeks ahead is anyone's guess. Landslides, caused by incessant rains in recent weeks, along the major supply routes to the capital and other cities blocked the roads for days while the Roads Department tried to clear the debris or build alternative routes to ease the long line of vehicles.

The East-West Highway could face a similar misfortune, maybe even worse, as warnings have been sounded that bridges along the highway, especially on the Pathlaiya-Nijgadh section in Bara, are in a dilapidated condition and face the risk of collapse.

The bridges over the Pasah, Balganga and Lal Bakaiya rivers have developed potholes, and vehicular movement is so slow in crossing them that buses and trucks are stuck in the queue for hours.

Rather than wait until the inevitable happens, the concerned authorities must swing into action immediately so as to repair the potholes and cracks that have developed on the bridges. This is the right time to carry out quick repairs of the bridges as the prohibitory orders are still in place, and there are less number of vehicles on the roads than during normal times.

A version of this article appears in the print on July 19 2021, of The Himalayan Times.