Lessons not learnt

The squabble over cabinet formation between the two biggest parliamentary parties, the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML, has caused dissatisfaction within the latter, with Pradeep Nepal, a former minister, resigning, on Tuesday, from the party’s politburo over process. Nepal protested against the decision of four people, including General Secretary Madhav K Nepal and K P Sharma Oli, to bypass Monday’s politburo decision, which said that the party would not join the government but support it from outside if it did not get an ‘honourable place’ in the government. But this small group decided to join the Girija Prasad Koirala cabinet the following morning when Oli, the man the party had chosen to lead the CPN-UML team in the government, was offered the post of deputy prime minister along with the foreign portfolio. In the bargain, the CPN-UML is also reported to have been promised the seat of the Speaker. The party was insisting on either home or defence portfolio, among other things, but the Congress was in no mood to oblige.

What terms to accept is the CPN-UML’s discretion. But it looks strange how just four leaders could have overturned the decision of the politburo, consisting of more than a dozen central committee members. In this regard, (Pradeep) Nepal has a valid point to make, whether he withdraws his resignation later on is another matter. If the politburo were to be overruled in this manner, why should it meet to make decisions in the first place? This is not the first time controversy has dogged the CPN-UML over rules, process, and norms; more serious fights have taken place in the past. The cause célèbre was the row over the Mahakali treaty in the mid-1990s, with the consequent revolt and split of the party. This is still etched on public memory.

But it seems ironical for the parties entrusted with steering the country through constituent assembly to be pettifogging over cabinet berths and showing a deficiency of democratic character in dealing with party matters. It is not for nothing that the civil society and the general people are strongly warning the parties and their leaders against doing anything to compromise people’s sovereignty and rights. This reflects a measure of public distrust of their intentions as well as of their character. This is the time for the parties to repair their eroded public credibility by acting in such a manner as to establish that they have learnt lessons. They are supposed to focus on their most important task, without being distracted by petty matters and quarrels. Admittedly, the Congress has shown small-mindedness in portfolio distribution, but the CPN-UML might as well have backed the government fully from outside to help achieve the main goal. Unfortunately, it has not been able to resist the temptation during the past few years. It would do better to learn something from its soulmate, the Communist Party of India (Marxist).