The problems that have emerged in the coalition will not be resolved even after the cabinet is expanded in a day or two

Four political parties in the Sher Bahadur Deuba-led coalition government have agreed to share ministries among them, 84 days after Nepali Congress President Deuba was appointed the Prime Minister following the mandamus order of the Supreme Court on July 12. This is, perhaps, the first time in Nepal's political history that a PM has not been able to expand his cabinet for such a long period owing to the tug-of-war among the coalition partners over power-sharing. The inordinate delay in expanding the cabinet has had severe impact on the day-today functioning of the administration, and the people have already started questioning the justification of the Supreme Court's verdict to reinstate the dissolved parliament for the second time. As per the deal among the NC, CPN-MC, CPN-Unified Socialist Party (CPN-USP) and Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP), the NC will get 7 ministries, CPN-MC 6 and CPN-USP and JSP 4 ministries each, and they have also finalised the names of the ministries each of the parties will lead. As per the constitutional provision, the federal cabinet cannot have more than 25 members. Although the NC will get 7 ministries, PM Deuba will keep one ministry with him for sometime, to be eventually filled in by someone reportedly as desired by Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana. Rana has, however, refuted media reports that he is also seeking two ministerial berths in the cabinet.

Initially, the CPN-USP and JSP had been lobbying to share power on 'equality basis', not on the basis of strength in the parliament. It took time for PM Deuba to convince them that the ministerial berths needed to be shared on the basis of the parties' strength. Deuba reportedly wanted to appoint someone as minister as desired by the CJ. But media reports poured cold water on Deuba's plan to appoint someone as a minister as per Rana's choice. However, Deuba is learnt to have asked Madhav Kumar Nepal, the leader of the CPN-USP, to nominate a senior lawyer who had played a leading role in the restoration of the parliament as minister. PM Deuba is particularly interested in appointing a senior lawyer as law minister to settle the remaining tasks of the peace process.

The problems in the coalition will, however, not be resolved even after the cabinet is expanded in a day or two. Many lawmakers from the JSP and CPN-USP had split their mother parties, hoping that they would get attractive ministerial berths in the Deuba-led cabinet. It is likely that the lawmakers who are not included in the cabinet will split their parties and join hands with the main opposition, the CPN-UML, taking advantage of the non-existence of the Political Party Act. This time around, CJ Rana's reported interest in power-sharing in the government has stirred unprecedented controversy, never ever experienced in Nepal's history. If media reports are true – which seem to be given his past record – it will not only tarnish the image of the Judiciary's independent, but will also prove the opposition allegation that the July 12 verdict was passed based on a so-called 'setting' between the Judiciary and the coalition. PM Deuba should come clean on this issue by not appointing anyone as minister from outside the parliament.

Unnatural deaths

That as many as 27 people, including children, drowned in Rautahat district, in Province 2, alone this year is shocking news to say the least. They had drowned while swimming in rivers and ponds, or falling into ditches filled with rainwater. What is disquieting is that the victims include a large number of children, even toddlers. In the flat plains of Province 2, police said 86 people drowned in fiscal year 2020- 21. Of them 59 were children. Apart from the many rivers that flow into India, Province 2 is also known for its many ponds, which are considered sacred. Ancient Janakpur, with 72 ponds is known as the City of Ponds. And you will find ditches at every step.

The alarming number of deaths due to drowning calls for creating awareness in the communities. Especially during the hot season, children are likely to go for a dip in the rivers and ponds, or go fishing in them. With the onset of the heavy monsoon rains, floods are a natural phenomenon both in the plains and the hills, and people must be asked to stay away from them. Large ditches filled with rainwater are a booby trap, waiting to suck in unsuspecting people.

They need to be covered with soil or warning signs placed around them.

A version of this article appears in the print on October 7, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.