No party time

As soon as Sher Bahadur Deuba was appointed Prime Minister on June 2, parties such as the CPN-UML and the RPP had responded positively, indicating their willingness to participate in the government. But now, nearly four weeks after that, things seem yet to be sorted out before the Deuba government can acquire a multi-party form. The CPN-UML had set certain conditions. Following it, the RPP set its own. The CPN-UML made reversion of the cabinet’s work procedure regulations to pre-Chand days a precondition for its joining the government. This was fulfilled. As for conflict resolution, a Common Minimum Programme has been drawn up on the basis of the agendas of the three parties — Deuba’s NC (D), the CPN-UML and the RPP.

Now the bone of contention is the ministerial berths. The CPN-UML is reported to have proposed the numerical distribution of ministerial berths according to the proportion of seats held by the parties in the dissloved House. The RPP is seeking an ‘equal representation’ in power. Prime Minister Deuba intends to keep more ministries than his party’s numerical strength on the plea that he might have to give them to the agitating parties should they decide to join in. If the former parliamentary strength is used as a basis, the CPN-UML would get most of the ministries (56 per cent), and the three other parties would share the remainder in this order: the NC-D (34 per cent), the RPP (9 per cent), and the NSP-Mandal (1 per cent). CPN-UML sources are quoted as saying that the party would reject the ideas of equal participation and berth reservation for the other parties.

These parties had been saying till the other day that crisis resolution was their main focus and portfolios did not matter. Judging by the way they are making claims to ministries, it seems that their real priority has all along been the other way round. If peace and elections are their main agendas, it is hard to understand why they are threatening that they would stay away from government if they did not get ‘enough’ berths. After the number will certainly come the dispute over the allocation of ‘choice’ portfolios. Each party would want to have one or more of them, such as home, finance and local development. Clearly, the motive behind this is to wield greater power, mobilise more resources and use the advantage of authority to brighten their political prospects generally and, more specifically, during the elections. For those who may want to serve the people, education and health, for example, should have been of no less importance than home and finance. What the country now requires is a sleek and functional council of ministers focused on tackling the pressing problems facing the nation. This is no time for horse-trading or political one-upmanship.