Looking for signs

Prime Minister-elect Pushpa Kamal Dahal (better known as Prachanda) takes his oath of office and secrecy today, and it is hoped that the sticky points of portfolio distribution, particularly between the CPN-UML and the MJF, will have been sorted out by then, and a full-strength Cabinet will also be sworn in immediately afterwards. The number of portfolios for the UML (six ministries and it has 108 CA members) is a much better deal than it got in the governments formed after Jana Andolan II, and as for the MJF (four ministries and it has 52 members), the deal looks even better. Therefore, it is hoped that Cabinet formation will not be delayed by persisting in demands for ‘respectable’ representation, such as for deputy prime minister and particular portfolios. Some of the smaller parties are to be inducted later on, virtually all of which will get one ministry each. It is possible that the new partners may not feel happy at getting the ‘left-over’ ministries - those considered less powerful or less attractive.

Each ministry is important enough to make a visible impact on the people. The main thing

is to run it with missionary zeal for the greater good.

A ministry is less important than the kind of person a party chooses to head it. It would be better for the parties to concentrate rather on choosing people with a clean public image, capable, dynamic, innovative and fair. In the present context, the focus should be on drawing up a sound Common Minimum Programme. This government, particularly because it is being headed by the CPN-Maoist and its chairman Prachanda, will have to operate amid high public expectations, higher than ever before in Nepali history, because of the circumstances in which the Maoists have come to power - the decade-old Maoist insurgency, the 19-day Jana Andolan II, and the agendas they have established, the expectations they have raised and the mass public consciousness they have engendered.

Even the critics of the CPN-Maoist, many countries and aid donors are keeping their fingers crossed. The fact that out of the 25 parties represented in the CA, 21 parties accounting for well over two-thirds majority backed up Prachanda for Prime Minister is a pointer to the level of expectation and hope, particularly in view of the reasons these parties gave for their support. Therefore, from day one, as soon as the new Council of Ministers takes office, the new government will come under the scanner from all sides. The tasks are numerous, often daunting, and the time and resources limited. In whatever way others may evaluate the performance of the government, but the general people will not expect dramatic change for the better in their lives, what they want to see is that the new government is sincere and serious about fulfilling its pledges, and they want to see good signs in the way of the proverb ‘Morning shows the day’. Most Nepalis have been fed up with the way successive governments have performed over the past decades. In order to keep the public trust, the Maoist-led government must, therefore, be able to live up to the new hope and raise the level of public confidence that better days lie ahead for the people and the country.