Students have started protests in a number of towns against the hikes in petroleum products. Transport entrepreneurs are demanding a hike in transport fares. Opposition politicians have criticised the Deuba government for putting a heavy burden on the general people. But the strangest public position has been taken up by the leaders of the CPN-UML who have been trying to play the roles of both the government and the opposition. The party’s general secretary, Madhav Kumar Nepal, has made an attempt to detach his party from the unpopular decision to which CPN-UML ministers have put signatures of approval in the cabinet. Nepal sought an escape route by blaming Ishwar Pokharel, a CPN-UML politburo member and minister for industry, commerce and supplies, for hiking the prices without consulting the party leadership. There are several CPN-UML ministers in the government, including deputy prime minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari. Therefore, Nepal’s claim is unbelievable at best and his attempt to create the impression of the CPN-UML’s non-involvement in the decision is too feeble to convince the public.
If the party does not agree with the decision, it must take disciplinary action against its ministers and recall them from the government. Making remarks just for public consumption will not wash with the people who have grown wiser to the party’s oft-repeated tactic. Meanwhile, Dr Shanker Sharma, the vice-chairman of the National Planning Commission, has said the pricing decision had been taken following “an agreement” between the coalition partners. The four “anti-regression” political parties, are likely to start an agitation against the hike. Now the CPN-UML is having a taste of its own medicine. It has a record of starting protests easily and even obstructing the business of the parliament, once for nearly two months.
If the CPN-UML wants to take the benefit of the opposition, too, it should have rather stayed with the “anti-regression” movement. But it has shown no sign of leaving the coalition, despite its frequent threats. On the issue of the elections, too, its leaders are speaking against the idea of announcing a poll date while its politburo member and deputy prime minister Adhikari has been saying that the government would hold the polls if the Maoists missed the deadline. Recently, the CPN-UML ministers decided to re-promulgate the anti-terrorism ordinance, extending the period of detention without trial to one year from six months, and then its leaders publicly protested against the decision after it drew wide criticism. This consistent lack of responsibility on the CPN-UML’s part shows in what direction the party is going — on a downward slope, particularly since it decided to join the Deuba government.