Perhaps Oli wants to amend the constitution not so much as to please the Madhes-based parties but as to realise his own ambitions and those of his major coalition partner, the CPN (Maoist Center)
--BY SHANT SHARMA
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli's efforts to include two Madhes-based parties in the government have boggled the minds of many. Prime Minister Oli's party, the CPN-UML, has 121 members and its political ally, the CPN (Maoist Center) has 53 members in the House of Representatives. The two parties, which are said to unify soon, together have 174 lawmakers in the 275-member parliament. In other words, the Oli government already had the support of 63.23 percent of the lawmakers in the House - enough to pass laws and policies and programmes for development and prosperity through parliament.
Why did Oli then try so hard to get the support of the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN) and Rastriya Jananta Party Nepal (RJPN) - the two Madhes-centric parties - to his government? While the chances for the RJPN to join the government are very slim now, the FSFN can still do that as talks for the same were still underway when this article was being written. If the talks conclude positively and the FSFN, which has 16 lawmakers in the House, joins the government, Prime Minister Oli will have the firm backing of 190 lawmakers (a two-thirds majority in parliament requires the support of only 183 lawmakers).
Political analysts have smelled a rat in Oli's attempts to win a two-thirds majority in the House. "A two-thirds majority is needed only to amend the constitution, which has been a long-standing demand of the Madhes-centric parties," said a political analyst, "Perhaps PM Oli has agreed to amend the statute."
It is no secret that Oli has always vehemently criticised the idea of amending the constitution. When the new constitution was promulgated in 2015, the Madhes-based parties hit the streets, demanding amendments. Back then, Oli openly criticised the idea of an amendment and was at the forefront to thwart any attempts aimed at amendment. His party obstructed parliament when the erstwhile Nepali Congress government tabled the proposal for a second amendment to the constitution in the House. The proposal failed when it was put to the vote in the House.
But perhaps Oli wants to amend the constitution not so much as to please the Madhes-based parties but as to realise his own ambitions and those of his major coalition partner, the CPN (Maoist Center).
One of the major agendas of the CPN (Maoist Center) as late as the last elections was that Nepal should go for a directly elected president. Though Oli's party, the UML, did not talk about a president with executive powers, it did demand the provision for a directly elected prime minister in the new constitution. When the two parties realised that the new constitution won't be possible if they stuck to their guns, they accepted the current parliamentary system.
But now they can change the constitution if they can get the support of a two-thirds majority in parliament. Some analysts have gone to the extent of claiming that the leftist government in Nepal wants to change the constitution to also bring the courts and constitutional bodies under its control.
In an unprecedented move, three major government departments - Department of Revenue Investigation, Department of Money Laundering Investigation and the National Investigation Department - which were earlier under various ministries, have been brought under the purview of the Prime Minister's Office. Now these departments will have to do what Prime Minister Oli wants. And the prime minister has already made it clear what he wants - convert all the black money in the country into white money for one time! PM Oli said this publicly soon after becoming the country's chief executive.
Why did Oli talk about laundering black money even before his cabinet got a full shape? The market is rife with political speculations. One such speculation is that the political parties and candidates spent huge amounts of money on the campaigns for the three tiers of elections - local, provincial and federal - concluded a few months ago. But these expenditures were not made through formal banking channels. This means there is a dangerous parallel economy running in the country. It could be that PM Oli now wants to return the favour done to his party and candidates by the businessmen during the elections. That's why he threw the salvo of whitening black money as soon as he became Prime Minister!
Leaders in the neighbourhood are headed in the direction of accruing more and more power. In China, President Xi Jinping has become the most powerful leader in China's history. In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is towing a similar line. It seems Oli has the ambition of becoming a similar leader in Nepal. It is being said that Oli has already made up his mind to break the parliamentary tradition of making a lawmaker of the opposition party the head of the Public Accounts Committee of parliament. This has given rise to the suspicion that Oli perhaps harbours ambitions of becoming a dictator and that he has the external support for this.
Not all dictators are bad. We have examples in the world where benevolent dictators have done quite well. Does Oli, too, want to become a benevolent dictator? Oli may use the power he accrues through a two-thirds majority in the House for the country's prosperity. However, there is not enough basis right now to be convinced about that.