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Major reshuffle in bureaucracy

Photo credit: Ratna Shrestha/RSS

The government has transferred 16 secretaries, including the chief secretaries of two provinces. The transfer comes less than a month after cabinet ministers signed a “performance agreement” with the prime minister and then with the secretaries of respective ministries “to change sluggish work culture”. Gokul Prasad Baskota, Minister for Communication and Information Technology said the transfers would improve the performance of ministries. 

The main opposition Nepali Congress (NC) argues that the decision was politically motivated. On Thursday, August 22, National Assembly member Radheshyam Adhikari said the transfers violated the performance agreement, which stipulated that officials would have a year to demonstrate effectiveness. 

Samajbadi Party Nepal says amend constitution or we leave govt

The Samajbadi Party Nepal (SPN) said it would leave the ruling coalition if the government failed to keep its promise of amending the constitution, SPN Chairman and Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Upendra Yadav said. The party’s demands include changes to the federal structure of the country, the electoral system, and system of governance. 

Addressing a program in Gorkha on August 17, Yadav emphasized that he was disappointed with the unexplained delays in amending the constitution, when there were no apparent hurdles to doing so. He said his party’s reason for joining the government was that the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) by itself falls a few seats short of the two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution.

Deputy PM and central committee chairman of Samajbadi Party, Nepal, Upendra Yadav. Photo credit: Ratna Shrestha/RSS

The SPN was formed in May this year after Yadav’s Federal Socialist Party or Sanghiya Samajwadi Party, the third-largest party in the federal parliament, merged with Baburam Bhattarai’s Naya Shakti Party. The FSP joined the government in 2018, following a two-point agreement with the NCP that included amending the constitution.

The SPN’s warning comes amid reported progress in its backchannel negotiations to merge with the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal, with which it runs the coalition government in Province 2.

The party demands that Nepal’s federal divisions be redrawn, to form 11 states based on identity, following the recommendations of the expert committee on federal restructuring in the first Constituent Assembly (2008-2012). The party also demands a presidential system of government and a fully proportional electoral system.

All-party meet agrees to defend constitution, republicanism

Republican parties from across the political spectrum agreed to defend the constitution, secularism and republicanism. On August 20, PM Oli called an all-party meeting at his residence in Baluwatar seeking the support of major parties to, he said, “thwart attempts being made from various quarters to overthrow the system, invalidate the constitution and plunge the country into another cycle of violence.”

Party leaders including main opposition leader Sher Bahadur Deuba agreed to defend what are often called the “historical achievements” of the 2006 People’s Movement and, for former Maoists, the so-called People’s War. Former prime minister and erstwhile Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai asked Oli to complete the truth and reconciliation process and draft new bills in a more inclusive manner, after consulting widely. 

All-party meet. Photo credit: Nabin Poudel/RSS

The all-party meeting comes at a time when monarchist groups, notably the Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal (RPP-N) led by former deputy prime minister Kamal Thapa, are attacking the government for failing to deliver on electoral promises and challenging the legitimacy of the political system. The party advocates reviving the Hindu state, and supported the new constitution conditionally, registering its dissent on the principles of secularism and republicanism. In July, Thapa said that Nepal’s problems could be resolved only with a change of system, not a change of government.

Days before calling the all-party meeting, Oli had said pro-monarchist forces should not dream of “bringing back the old system from the grave”. In an address to parliament on August 18, Oli said, “This government happily welcomes dissent, criticism within the space outlined by the constitution. But [will not] tolerate any attempt to overthrow the system, take the country back to the old system or reject the constitution on the pretext of being the opposition.” 

Some progress on flood management with India, but none on amending treaty

Minister of Foreign Affairs Pradip Gyawali and his Indian counterpart, S Jaishanker. Photo credit: Sharachandra Bhandari/RSS

Nepal and India have agreed to explore ways to minimize the flooding that plagues people living on either side of the border. The Fifth Meeting of the Nepal-India Joint Commission led by Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali and his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar “underlined the need for addressing inundation issues due to, among other things, the inadequate drainage provision that obstructs the natural flow of water in border areas.”

Monsoon-induced floods this year have killed over 100 people, mainly in areas of the central Tarai; over 300 have died in the last three years.

The meeting also discussed ongoing projects related to trade, transit, connectivity, and “reviewed [the] entire gamut of bilateral relations with specific focus on the areas of connectivity and economic partnership; trade and transit; power and water resources sectors; culture, and education,” said a statement by Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on August 21.

However, the stalemate continued on the critical issue of reviewing the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1950 in line with the report of the Eminent Persons Group on Nepal-India Relations (EPG-NIR), a joint panel formed in 2016 to review bilateral relations. New Delhi is reportedly reluctant to accept the 2018 report, which recommends reviewing the treaty and regulating the open border.

Nepal’s note of dissent

Photo credit: Roshan Sapkota/RSS

Nepal Communist Party (NCP) senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal has asked Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to choose between being prime minister and party president, and demanded the party stick to a One Person, One Post system.  In a note of dissent Nepal registered at the party on August 20, he accused Oli of grabbing the reins of the party and the government by undermining party democracy, rules, regulations, and procedures. Despite opposition from some party leaders, Oli has often reiterated his intention to lead both the party and the government until his five-year term expires. 

Nepal’s note of dissent came shortly after he was demoted to fourth position in the party hierarchy to make room in third place for another former prime minister, Jhala Nath Khanal.

Nepal’s note of dissent starts yet another dispute in the ruling party, which has been cripplingly factionalized since it was formed through a merger between the UML and CPN (Maoist Centre) last year.

PM Oli in Singapore for medical treatment, says his opponents wish he were dead

PM Oli left for medical treatment in Singapore August 22, returning to the Singapore National University Hospital, where he spent 10 days under observation earlier this month. Kundan Aryal, the PM’s press advisor, said that the earlier visit had shown an increase Oli’s kidney antibody levels, fueling speculation about the gravity of the prime minister’s health problems. The prime minister’s secretariat has not announced a return date. 

Photo credit: Roshan Sapkota/RSS

Oli acknowledged the rumors, but alleged his opponents were spreading rumors about his death and even praying for it, for fear of losing in the next elections. “I am going for a medical checkup and normal treatment. I would like to tell those praying for my death, to remain prepared for the next election. The next election is going to be tough,” Oli said on August 18.

The prime minister appeared to be Oli taking a dig at his own party colleagues. On August 22, NCP leader Madhav Kumar Nepal told Online Khabar, an online news  portal, that Oli had refused to accept his good wishes for the trip to Singapore and accused him of “praying for his death” at a heated meeting held at the prime minister’s residence ahead of the trip. Nepal has increasingly chafed under Oli’s control over the party and is maneuvering alongside other factions to boost his own position.

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