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#4382, 7 April 2014

Himalayan Frontier

Nepal's Restful Prime Minister
Pramod Jaiswal
SAARC Doctorate Fellow, Centre for South Asian Studies, JNU

It has been over two months since Sushil Koirala took office as the Prime Minister’s of Nepal. In last two months, Koirala promoted six joint secretaries to secretaries and appointed Damodar Prasad Sharma as the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Despite the election of the second Constituent Assembly (CA) in November 2013, the CA has not got its full house, as 26 CA members remains to be nominated. The CA committees that were formed to accelerate the constitution-making process still do not have chiefs, and are yet to start operations. of the rate of progress of the past two months has raised doubts regarding the timely delivery of the new constitution.

Koirala’s slow pace has also raised serious doubts over the prospects of local elections that the governing parties had earlier vowed to conduct within six months of the CA elections. Since the election is now virtually impossible in the said time-frame, the government might schedule it after the constitution is promulgated, and has been confirmed by Deputy Prime Minister Prakash Man Singh. This is in the interest of the country as the leaders can direct their focus completely on the constitution-making process.  

Koirala’s government is yet to get a definitive shape. He is struggling to appoint officials to the several important positions lying vacant in the administration, judiciary, foreign service, and security. Almost half a dozen ministries currently do not have ministers assigned, and eight slots for the position of Secretary remain vacant. The government is yet to appoint over a dozen ambassadors for different embassies around the world. According to media reports, 12 ambassadors will retire in the next five months. Even important missions, such as the Embassy of Nepal in New Delhi have been functioning without ambassadors, since December 2009. 

Koirala has failed to appoint a complete team of advisors since he took office. He is also unable to orchestrate efficient coordination between the Prime Minister’s Office and other ministries.  Due to the long-standing delay in filling the vacant positions of the second-most powerful institution of the country’s security force, the functioning of the Nepal Police has been badly affected. The government hasn’t demonstrated any urgency to end the delay in promoting Deputy Inspector Generals of Police (DIG) to the vacant Additional Inspector General of Police (AIG) positions. There are several other issues the Koirala government needs to resolve immediately, for the delay has negatively affected the delivery of service to the people.

The snail’s pace and indecisive behaviour of the prime minister has been criticised by all quarters. Such harsh criticism about Koirala been made both by external analysts as well as the members of his own party.  Madhav Kumar Nepal, Senior Leader, Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), pointed towards Koirala’s lack of experience in governance as the reason for the slow pace, and further stated that the latter is somebody who would easily get frustrated with the problems.

Before being elected as the Prime Minister, last February, Koirala served only for the party at various levels. He joined the Nepali congress in 1954 and spent 16 years in political exile in India after King Mahendra suspended the constitution, dissolved parliament, dismissed the cabinet, imposed direct rule and imprisoned then Prime Minister Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala and his closest government colleagues in December 1960. Koirala has also spent three years in Indian prisons for his involvement in a plane hijacking in 1973. He has been a member of the Central Working Committee of the party since 1979 and was appointed as the General Secretary of the party in 1996. He was promoted to Vice President position in 1998 and is has been the president of the party since 2010.

Undoubtedly, the 75–year-old Koirala is honest, sincere and known for his simple life. Last month, Koirala also got international coverage claiming him world’s poorest head of state. According to the Office of the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers that disclosed the assets of top government officials including Koirala and the members of the Council of Ministers, the only assets of the prime minister are three mobile phones.

The past two months under Koirala’s tenure has not been all that bad either. He managed to get all the parties agree to own up all the achievements and agreements of the last CA. The house also prepared a schedule for the constitution-making process. All he needs to do now is to enforce the schedule. He should change the functioning system of his office, and carry out all the appointments without delay. Instead of opening new doors of confrontations and obstacles, he needs to concentrate on ways that can give Nepal its constitution in a timely manner. The rescheduling of local election after the constitution promulgation is a positive move. 

He has wasted enough time by visiting temples, traveling across the countries, visiting his own constituency, and leaving the major tasks aside. He cannot afford to lose anymore. 

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