By P. Kharel
Bolstered by his landslide victory for the unified RPP’s chair last month, Kamal Thapa continues remaining in the news for reasons good and controversial. His knack of being in the limelight highlights either he chasing the media or the media running after him.
The latest uncalled for cause for controversy has been over his assertion that he ranks senior-most deputy premier’s position among the three DPMs in the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government. Home Minister Mahendra Narayan Nidhi, of the Nepali Congress, demanded he be accorded the status immediately next to the prime minister. Nothing doing, saidFederal Affairs and Local Development Deputy Premier Thapa, who seems to have ultimately gained the upper hand.
LEGITIMATE: For all his strengths and weaknesses as a political leader (which will regularly figure in this column in the ensuing weeks) Thapa’s case in the latest issue is legitimate. Just because Nidhi was inducted deputy premier months before Thapa did in the Dahal cabinet does not undercut the latter’s claim.
Nidhi’s sycophants wanted Thapa to back out by describing him as a “chameleon” joining in the past cabinets constituted with various combinations. They argued that Nidhi represents the largest party in parliament. So what? If the situation is of great merit why does his Nepali Congress accept joining the government led by the leader of the third largest party in the House of lawmakers? And in the numbers game, RPP is the fourth largest, that is, immediately behind Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s Maoist Centre.
Not infrequently, politicians remind us that “everything is fair in love and politics”. Another favourite of theirs is a confession: In politics, nothing in impossible. Armed with such cliché-ridden statements of convenience betraying their orientation in rank opportunism, political parties need not overstress their claim in principled politics or commitment to rule of law.
CULPRITS: In mid-1990s, the malpractice of toppling game was shamelessly unleashed by Nepal’s two largest parties—Congress and CPN (UML). With less than ten per cent of the House members, RPP factions led two governments, one by “nationalist pancha” Lokendra Bahadur Chand and the other by “liberal pancha” headed by Surya Bahadur Thapa. As the deciding factors, the RPP was given disproportionately large share in the spoils of office.
Congress and UML were both responsible for throwing the cake, cheese and carrot at RPP groups with the sole intention of being in power, even if it meant the bigger political groups looking like political jokers willing to be led by a group that was several times smaller in size than either of them. They bent backwards to offer RPP leaders the prime ministerial chair, and the latter accepted it with alacrity. Were such offer to occur anywhere else in a parliamentary democracy, the result would be the same, except that it does not happen in countries rated as the most successful democracies. Such countries rarely witnesses substantially larger parties allowing themselves to be led by a minority party leader. In contrast, elements supporting the larger parties in a hung parliament in either India or Nepal extol the smaller party with the potential combination to tilt the balance of parliamentary majority as “king maker”.
The past 18 months in Nepal are witness to the largest party in parliament being in the opposition seats or being led by not the second but the third largest grouping headed by Pushpa Kamal Dahal. As the two largest parties in parliament, the Congress and the UML did not find a common ground between themselves to form what the Germans coin as “a grand alliance”. This went on as long as the hung parliament lasted. The confusingly undefined “loktantrik” years have maintained the practice.
NUMBERS GAME: Such being the recent history of party politics, criticising Thapa is nothing but an exercise in absurdity. As for the value of the DPM, Nidhi should note that his venerated party leader, the late Girija Pasad Koirala, had found passage for his daughter Sujata as a DPM at the forefront of the Congress representatives in the government he did not head and when. The catch is that Sujata had been roundly defeated in the general elections.
In the Dahal-led government, too, Thapa would have held the very deputy prime ministerial post looking after the foreign ministry he held in the previous cabinet headed by K.P. Oli. But the Congress, initially, rejected the idea and stalled Thapa’s induction. Dahal wanted Thapa’s party aboard his team with the offer of “all the posts and portfolios your partyheld earlier”.
Apparently disappointed with the Congress attitude toward his party, Thapa, along with Madhes-based party chief Bijaya Gachhadar, held a joint meeting at the now-turned-main-opposition leader Oli’s residence at Bhaktapur.On being informed of the trio’s more than an hour-longclosed-door meeting late into the evening, Nidhi glanced at Dahal with I-told-you-so look, while the prime minister, too, shot a glance at Nidhi with a “therefore-I-wanted-him [Thapa] aboard” look.
Moral of story for Nidhi and his like: Fall in line or pull out from the post.Right now, advantage Thapa.
Verdict Kamal Thapa
By P. Kharel