Uncalled-for delay

It is a shame on the constitutional political forces that they have failed miserably to form an all-party government for the past 21 months. Lokendra Bahadur Chand and Surya Bahadur Thapa had received clear directives from King Gyanendra to form such a government, restore peace and hold the general election. They were in power for 20 months together, but could not perform even one of the tasks assigned to them. Now Sher Bahadur Deuba has stepped into their shoes, with similar assignments from the monarch, such as forming a government with the widest possible participation, restoring peace and initiating the parlimentary polls by next April. But this time there is some difference. One is that the CPN-UML has agreed to join the government, subject to certain conditions, including the agreement on the Common Minimum Programme.

The conditions have been met. Yet there has been no cabinet expansion beyond two ministers, though Deuba’s appointment has crossed three weeks. He said on Tuesday the government would be expanded by next week. CPN-UML general secretary Madhav Nepal has, however, said that the delay is due to the NC-D and as soon as its central committee meeting is over, his party will join in. The RPP is looking to the CPN-UML before joining in. Perhaps it did not have enough self-confidence without a guarantee of the CPN-UML’s participation on which unquestionably depends the fate of this government. Initially, the CPN-UML’s indecision had delayed government formation.

But now the NC-D’s central leadership is allegedly divided over who should get ministerial berths. Party stalwarts such as general secretary Bijay Kumar Gachchadar reportedly want senior and experienced members rather than young blood to be inducted while there is another view that favours sending ‘untainted’ faces to government. This feud and the palace’s stress on ‘clean image’ may have put Deuba in a dilemma. Those accused by the CIAA but not yet convicted may argue that ignoring them on this very ground will amount to an admission of self-guilt by the party. To a certain extent, this is true. If so, Deuba cannot morally retain such ‘tainted’ people in the party’s important positions, too. The ‘clean image’ as floated is abstract and may well be used to punish those whom certain power centres do not approve of. In a democracy public perceptions of the holders of public office count much. If that criterion is applied, heads will roll. Deuba, and Thapa and Chand before him, will find it hard to pass that test. Above all, those who find forming an all-party government such an Herculean task may be expected to find it impossible to resolve the Maoist insurgency, which is much tougher to deal with.