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Biased officials continue ruining the image of state institutions in Nepal

KP Sharma Oli during his time as the prime minister put forward three ordinances and two recommendations to dissolve the House of Representatives in front of President Bidya Devi Bhandari. Both the ordinances and the recommendations to dissolve the House were approved by Bhandari almost immediately. The last recommendation was passed by her office around midnight that goes to show that the President’s Office works around the clock.

But, things seem to have changed as the same proactiveness is not shown by Bhandari or her office when she has been asked to pass ordinances by the Sher Bahadur Deuba-led government.

Take the Ordinance on Political Parties as an example. Deuba and his Council of Ministers had recommended that the president pass the ordinance swiftly. But, that did not happen as Bhandari’s office took over a day to do so. Her office only passed the ordinance after Law Minister Gyanendra Bahadur Karki continued to quiz the president’s office about the ordinance.

A similar thing had happened in 2017. After the general election, three names were recommended to fill National Assembly seats. But, Bhandari during that time had said she would assess the candidates before she made a decision. No decision was made for a month, after which the government came into the hand of Oli. Oli, disregarding those names, gave her three new names for the vacant position. Those names were approved almost immediately.

These are just a few examples. There have been a number of incidents in which state officials like the president, the speaker, and the governors have shown bias to people they are close with. This has resulted in the people starting to feel that nepotism and favouritism have crept into Nepali politics and fear that if such things continue to happen, it would be bad for the country.

Political scientist Bishnu Dahal says these state officials doing such a thing is bad for the integrity of the post. He says that rather than being system-oriented, these officials are people-oriented and are disgracing the posts they sit in.

“When these people start to think that the post is theirs to take advantage of, things, in the long run, will become bad,” he says, adding this is the reason why so much is changing in Nepal on a regular basis.

Speaker’s side

Speaker Agni Sapkota has been accused of working on behalf of Pushpa Kamal Dahal.

Ever since Agni Prasad Sapkota became the House speaker, he has been inconsistent with this decision-making. Voting was taking place in the House regarding the changing of the national emblem and the map that included Limpiyadhura, Lipulek and Kalapani. Sarita Giri, a lawmaker associated with the Janata Samajbadi Party Nepal, had criticised the government for hastily making this decision. After this, her party wrote to the Parliament Secretariat asking it to remove Giri from her post as a lawmaker. The speaker endorsed it very swiftly.

When the CPN-Maoist Centre asked the secretariat to remove four of its lawmakers, Sapkota did so in two days. But he did nothing for nearly two weeks when Oli-led UML asked the secretariat to remove Madhav Kumar Nepal and 14 others from the position as a lawmaker until they formed a new party, thereby effectively skipping the action. UML leaders say that he has been avoiding them and their letters.

“The speaker is wrong. He can’t be working for parties when he’s the speaker. His intentions are wrong,” says advocate Lalit Basnet who worked with former President Ram Baran Yadav.

On December 20, 2020, the President’s Office did a similar thing as the office avoided lawmakers ‘request to hold a special parliament session to hold a confidence vote against then prime minister KP Sharma Oli. The President’s Office secretary Hari Paudel had gone out of contact. People say that he was rewarded for that act later as he was made a member of the anti-corruption constitutional body, the CIAA.

Speaker Sapkota is seen working towards the benefit of his party, the Maoists. He is also facing allegations that he is working on behalf of Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s interest as he is quite keen on taking action against lawmakers who went to the Oli’s side leaving behind Dahal. But, when a few lawmakers have left Oli, he has shown no keenness to take action against them.

Unfair Election Commission

Top Bahadur, Lekh Raj Bhatta, Prabhu Sah and Gauri Shankar Chaudhary were removed as lawmakers by speaker Sapkota but various UML leaders were not.

The Election Commission is a constitutional body that should remain fair. That is its duty according to the constitution. But, over the past few months, various people have been questioning the commission’s role.

After Oli dissolved the House for the first time on December 20, 2020, Nepal Communist Party was on the verge of splitting. During that time, most members of the party’s central committee were on the Madhav Kumar Nepal-Pushpa Kamal Dahal side. Dissatisfied with what Oli was doing, Nepal, Dahal and other leaders went to the commission telling it that as they had a majority, they wanted to take action against Oli and remove him from the party.

In response, the Oli side also took action against disgruntled leaders and informed the commission about this.

But, the commission did nothing. A month later, the commission told both factions of the NCP that the commission would not recognise the proposed party split.

A few days later, Dahal and Nepal upped their effort to make sure that their party would be the official communist party of the country. They filed another application at the commission staking their claim as they said they had the support of 441 central committee members. But, the commission was not proactive as it dilly-dallied on this issue for over a month.

President Bhandari made swift decisions when the government was ruled by Oli but her decision making after Deuba was appointed prime minister has raised questions.

As the commission was delaying its decision, the Supreme Court made a decision that resulted in the party splitting into CPN-UML and CPN-Maoists. Even though the entire country knew about the tensions between Nepal and Oli, the commission kept mum and did not ask them to settle their differences for over two months.

“The commission was scared of Oli. I don’t know why, but he could have been called to the commission, but he wasn’t and that has been a mistake,” says an official at the commission.

Many officials at the commission have been appointed by Oli. 

But, as the government has changed, so has been the commission’s working procedure. It seems to be quite active in making decisions now. It worked quite efficiently to give authenticity to Upendra Yadav’s party.

Most recently, the commission worked incredibly fast to split the CPM-UML and Janata Samajbadi Party Nepal and formed two new parties. Normally, the proposed parties are given 45 days to make the decision, but this time the commission did it in just a few days.

The way in which President Bhandari, Speaker Sapkota and the Election Commission has worked in the past has started to raise questions about the integrity of their posts.

Former chief election commissioner Bhoj Raj Pokharel says this situation has come out as these officials think their position goes beyond the constitution.

“We’ve rarely appointed people who are fit for these jobs. Prime ministers have always ended up appointing people to serve their benefit, which is wrong,” says Pokharel. “These selfish people have ruined the post as some have paid their way to the post.”

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