Muddling along

Bikram Rai

Despite its two-thirds majority, and after getting off to a flying start, the government is digging itself into an ever deeper hole.

In the first three months of his tenure, Prime Minister K P Oli focused on just three tasks: improving political ties with India, building on economic cooperation with China, and uniting with the Maoists to form the monolithic Nepal Communist Party. That seems to have sapped all his energy.

He did try to address the people’s concerns by ordering his ministers to dismantle transport cartels, go after gold smugglers, punish those responsible for delays in road repairs. But all these moves fizzled out. The horrific road conditions this monsoon are emblematic of the national political quagmire.

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The people are running out of patience. In Boudha, monks took to the streets to repair craters themselves. Even former UML politicians close to Oli are worried about his tarnished image. “He is being heaped all the blame, he has become the lightning rod,” said one close aide in frustration.

Indeed, PM-in-waiting and party co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal is conspicuous by his silence. Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa, who once threatened to break cartels and the bones of errant contractors, has not been heard from recently.

The government is BUSY firefighting and too distracted to address long-term crises. This week’s delay in confirmation of Deepak Raj Joshi as Chief Justice by the Parliamentary Hearings Special Committee is because he is being punished for his interim order overturning the Prime Minister’s sacking of officials appointment by the NC government. If true, this would represent gross interference by the executive on the independent judiciary.

“If you do not follow the rule of law, there can be difficult days ahead,” warns advocate Radheshyam Adhikari.

Public disenchantment is also growing. There is open ridicule of Prime Minister promising ocean-going ships and railroads when nothing is done to repair roads and deliver better services. The opposition NC, after being trammeled in elections, smells blood. Prime Minister Oli’s window of opportunity for damage control is narrowing.

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