New government must embrace liberalism

Bandana Rana

After more than three weeks of intense uncertainty and speculations, the country got a new prime minister last Wednesday. The King appointed the leader of the Nepali Congress (Democratic) Sher Bahadur Deuba as the prime minister after the five parties failed to name a unanimous candidate for the post. With this appointment, the majority of the Nepalis breathed a sigh of relief hoping that the life in the capital will come back to its normal track. But it does not seem like the Kathmanduites have seen the end of the agitation as yet. Though the five party alliance has now shown cracks with the UML backing out of it and the Sadbhawana showing indications of doing so, the day to day street agitation has not completely ended.

The street agitations and protest that took place in Kathmandu this time must have been the longest that the country ever witnessed. We don’t know yet when the benefits of the agitation done in the name of protecting democracy can be reaped but the impact it had on the commuters was immense. The disruption in the traffic because of the protests lend even more credence to the popular “Nepali time” syndrome. It has become virtually impossible to keep a fixed schedule or reach your destination on time. Delays in reaching offices, keeping appointments and poorly attended programmes has become a regular thing. It would do better for the parties to stop the protests and pave the way for a conducive environment for the benefit of the public.

It is said that every action no matter how disrupting has a positive side as well. There was something visibly different that this scribe noticed in the protest movements this time. The photographs of the agitation carried by most newspapers and the visuals screened through television channels clearly showed the increasing number of women participants leading the rallies in front rows, shouting slogans and sometimes even retaliating with the security force. This proves that in the changed global context, men in the parties have eventually recognised the competence and value of a balanced participation. Considering that wo-men are still lagging behind in every sphere, this is indeed a positive sign where all the parties deserve accolades for giving such prominent space to women. However, what we need to wait and see is whe-ther these same parties will expand their liberalism beyond the protest rallies or not.

The challenge facing the present government is immense. It has been given the agenda to make a broad based government including representation from all parties. Prime Minister has been visiting various leaders to garner support. The indication so far is that it has received the support of the CPN-UML and the RPP and with some possibility of Sadbhawana joining in as well. All of these parties have participated in the agitation whether independently or as part of an alliance and have visibly shown liberalism in promoting important involvement of women. One can hope that the forthcoming coalition government will have no reservation in showing maximum flexibility in appointing a balanced representation of women in the cabinet.

It is not that the past governments after the reinstatement of democracy have not appointed women as ministers. But mostly as only assistant ministers of the Women Ministry. In this context we can recall here what Prime Minister Deuba responding to journalists query soon after his appointment had said, “I am used to flying a “Jumbo Jet, Not a Twin Otter” indicating that the cabinet to be formed will be broad based and large. One now needs to wait and see how many women will get the ticket to take off in this Jet.