Dahal’s warning to topple Province 2 government draws ire

Leaders, experts say such remarks are against spirit of federalism and can cause instability

Pushpa Kamal Dahal, co-chairman of the ruling Nepal Communist Party, on Tuesday threatened to topple the Province 2 government, saying that corruption was rampant in the province and that the provincial government had failed to work in the interest of the people of Madhes.

“There is increasing corruption and dishonesty. I am surprised to hear that personal phone numbers are listed in red book,” said Dahal at a function organised to welcome leaders from the Madhes Tarai Forum in his party at his residence. “If this continues, situation might come for the Nepal Communist Party to take the lead of the government some time.”

Such remarks from Dahal, a two-time prime minister, have angered the Province 2 leaders and government officials.

Dipendra Jha, chief attorney of Province 2, objected to Dahal’s statement, saying it does not go with the spirit of federalism. “It’s unbecoming of Dahal, as someone who fought for federalism, to make such remarks,” Jha said. “As far corruption is concerned, there is a constitutional body in place to deal with the issue. There is no need for a political figure to call out any provincial government. Dahal is not the authority to accuse the provincial government of corruption.”

The new constitution promulgated in 2015 ensured federalism and elections were held accordingly in 2017. The Nepal Communist Party has formed governments in all provinces except in Province 2. The governments in provinces are formed by the respective provincial assemblies.

Dahal’s remarks come at a time when most of the provincial governments are at odds with the federal government over a host of issues, including devolution of power and lack of umbrella laws.

On top of that, many say Dahal does not hold any official position and that he is currently the co-chairman of a party that is at the helm of the federal government.

While Dahal has time and again said he “always worked for Madhes”, his remarks in recent times targeting Province 2 are not reflective of that.

Earlier on October 23 last year, Dahal had warned Province 2 government “not to overtake the federal government”, saying it could derail federalism. Dahal was referring to Province 2 government’s move to bring Provincial Police Act prior to Federal Police Law. He had also warned the provincial executives not to ignore the federal government, saying it enjoyed a two-thirds majority. Province 2 Chief Minister Lalbabu Raut was also present at that function.

“Such remarks from a political leader of such a stature can create instability,” said Bipin Adhikari, a constitutional expert. “Leaders who are never tired of boasting about political stability should promote stability in provinces as well,” he said.

Dahal for long has been known for making strange statements that generate debate—and sometimes have caused ramifications. But majority of such comments from him have been political in nature.

Dahal as a top leader of the ruling party, some say, should not have gone to the extent of threatening to a provincial government, as its formation has its own procedures which are not related to federal Parliament of which Dahal is a member.

“There is a provincial assembly to discuss if there has to be a change of guard,” said Jha. “And the constitutional provision does not allow any political party to bring no-confidence motion before two years of the formation of government.”

Article 188(4) of the constitution states that one-fourth of the total number of then members of the State Assembly may table in writing a motion of no-confidence against the chief minister but “provided that a motion of no-confidence may not be tabled until the first two years after the appointment of the chief minister and until another one year after the date of failure of the motion of no-confidence once tabled.”

Then why Dahal made the remarks?

“Dahal is daydreaming,” said Lalbabu Raut, Chief Minister of Province 2. “Since long, Dahal has been dreaming about forming government led by his party. His dream won’t materialise.”

Raut’s party Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum-Nepal and the Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal currently have a coalition government in Province 2.

Asked if Dahal had made the claim of toppling the government in Province 2 and forming one under the Nepal Communist Party after talking with the parties there, a Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal leader said his party was not aware of any such developments.

“The coalition government in Province 2 has people’s mandate. It’s a movement in itself, it’s more than a power-sharing deal,” said Rajendra Mahato of Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal. “I don’t think Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum-Nepal would halt the ongoing struggle by siding with the Nepal Communist Party.”

Adhikari, the constitutional expert, said federal government is yet to equip provincial governments to ensure their smooth functioning.

“With no necessary legal framework, provincial governments are struggling to to function properly,” Adhikari said. “And when it comes to corruption, there is a constitutional body to deal with it. Political leaders talking about corruption of provinces would only disrupt the process of federalisation.”