New Nepalese Maoist Ministers Sworn In, So What?

I must admit that I have a hard time being excited about the recent cabinet reshuffle in Kathmandu (I have reproduced 3 articles from myrepublica.com below that provide snap shots of the three acts of this recent political drama: 1) the UCPN(Maoist) appointing its new Ministerial cabinet team; 2) opposition to the reshuffling of the cabinet by the other parties and the subsequent resignation of the Maoist ministers from the government; and 3) Khanal finally acquiescing to swearing in the proposed Ministers). I recognize that these developments are important inasmuch that they demonstrate the enduring power that the UCPN(Maoist) still has in Nepalese politics, the nearing possible formation of a national consensus government (potentially under the leadership of Baburam Bhattarai – which would reflect the power-sharing deal that has been agreed upon by the UCPN(Maoist) leadership) and the further sharpening of contradictions amongst the bourgeoisie (especially between the nationalist and comprador bourgeoisie), but I cannot but wonder whether the recent cabinet reshuffle and the political crisis that preempted it is not just simply the latest political drama in Kathmandu high politics and is not completely divorced from the lives and goals of the revolution?

One of the main reasons, I believe, that the People’s War was as successful as it was, was that the fact that CPN(Maoist) was willing to pay attention and fight for improvements to the everyday lives of the vast majority of the Nepalese people who lived outside of Kathmandu and thus had been neglected for decades by the central government. Indeed, the Nepalese Maoists had promised for years that the capture of State-power by the proletariat and peasantry would result in structural changes to the government which would result in a greater attentiveness to the goals and aspirations of the those very issues through a new democratic revolution. However, it seems like the Maoist’s entry into central government has not caused a significant shift of focus from the high politics of Kathmandu to the masses, but has simply resulted in the UCPN(Maoist) shifting its own focus from the masses to Kathmandu’s high politics. Indeed, the news and attention for the last few weeks has not been about the development of social, economic and political proposals by Maoist ministers who already enjoy ministerial berths, rather it has been about the latest round of inner-party debates inside the UCPN(Maoist) and the latest palace intrigues regarding the national consensus government. Indeed, neither Prachanda or Baburam Bhattarai in their respective interviews (both reproduced below) discuss tangible proposed changes in the lives of the proletariat and peasantry except for restating their same old positions regarding the peace process, the promulgation of a new Nepalese constitution and the need to form a national consensus government. The only thing that is news and interesting is that the Party leadership has decided to hold a national convention, however, it is not clear that a date for such a convention has actually been established. Furthermore, the situation is not any better amongst the other Left parties. Smaller parties like Matrika Yadav’s Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and Mani Thapa’s Revolutionary Communist Party (Nepal) have spent much of their time also focusing on the Nepalese high politics and have announced that they will be organizing a joint anti-corruption campaign with the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified (see article at the bottom).

I recognize that I may be a victim of petit-bourgeois impatience and that the path to revolution is often a winding one, however, it seems like the political machinations of the UCPN(Maoist) even within the limitations of the political field as it is currently constituted are becoming increasingly narrow. It is not clear that the UCPN(Maoist) is being able to effectively use the legal political sphere to promote the next step for the revolution, which was the basic reason to enter into the  legal arena, and has in fact succumbed to the logic of post-politics. Indeed one cannot but help feel that the recent Nepalese cabinet reshuffle resembles the recent debt-ceiling fight in Washington (although the time span of the political drama is a little bit more reasonable – a miniseries rather, than a several season roller-coaster), more than it does the temporary social democratic government of Kerensky.

Narayankaji to lead Maoist team in cabinet

KATHMANDU, July 24: As part of the power sharing deal in the party, the Central Committee (CC) meeting of the UCPN (Maoist) has nominated new ministers, under the leadership of Vice-chairman Narayankaji Shrestha, to reshuffle the cabinet.

The party has named Shrestha the deputy prime minister and minister for home, a position currently held by party leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara.

“It is only temporary arrangement. We will keep pressurizing other parties for the formation of a national consensus government as per the five-point deal,” Shrestha told Republica.

The CPN (Unity Centre-Masal) led by Shrestha merged with the Maoist party after the CA elections in 2008, and Shrestha was subsequently appointed the vice-chairman of the UCPN (Maoist).

Amik Sherchan and Lilamani Pokharel, who also joined the Maoist party from the Unity Centre-Masal, have, however, seriously objected to the party decision saying that reshuffling the cabinet at this time would be against the five-point deal signed just ahead of the second term extension of the CA.

The deal states that Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal would step down to pave way for the formation of a national consensus government.

Sherchan and Pokahrel are Shrestha´s rivals in the party and party insiders say that these two leaders were actually opposed to the decision to appoint Shrestha deputy prime minister and minister for home.

Along with party general secretary Ram Bahadur Thapa, Shrestha has also currently teamed up with vice-chairmen duo Mohan Baidya and Dr Baburam Bhattarai to downsize Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and force him to share his executive powers with other leaders. Some 156 lawmakers from Baidya and Bhattarai factions have formally submitted a memorandum to Dahal to make the government inclusive.

Some other leaders in the party also objected to the party decision saying the selection of the new ministers was not proportional enough. Krishna Singh Danuwar and Ram Kumar Sharma, both of them from Madhes, argued that the tarai region has not been duly represented in the new selection of leaders.

The party also decided to appoint Dev Gurung, who is close to Baidya, as the chief whip, the position currently held by the nominee for Minister for Information and Communications Posta Bahadur Bogati.

Similarly, Kamala Roka, who is close to Dahal, will be the party whip while Khim Lal Devkota, who is close to Bhattarai, will work as the secretary of the parliamentary board.

The party has nominated 24 ministers — 12 cabinet ministers and 12 state ministers. Among the cabinet ministers, Dahal and Baidya factions have got four ministries each and Bhattarai three.

Similarly, four women are cabinet ministers and five state ministers. The party has sent three ministers from the far-western region, two from Karnali region and three from Madhes.

Minister name-list

  • Narayankaji Shrestha – deputy prime minister / home
  • Ram Kumar Rai – state minister for home
  • Posta Bahadur Bogati – Information and Communications
  • Amar Tamu — State minister for Information and Communications
  • Top Bahadur Rayamjhi – Physical Panning and Works
  • Devi Khadka – State Minister for Physical Planning and Works
  • Lokendra Bisht – health and population
  • Satya Pahadi – State minister for health and population
  • Pampha Bhusal – peace and reconstruction
  • Saarad Singh Bhandari – state minister for peace and reconstruction
  • Hisila Yamai – Land Reforms
  • Lila Bhandari – State minister for Land reforms
  • Khadga Bahadur Bishwakarma – Tourism and Civil Aviation
  • Indrajit Chaudhary – State Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation
  • Lekharaj Bhatta – commerce and supplies
  • Dharmashila Chapagain – State minister for commerce and supplies
  • Prabhu Sah – Law and Justice
  • Ghanashyam Yadav – State minister for Law and Justice
  • Jayapuri Gharti – Women, Children and Social Welfare
  • Kumari Moktan – State Minister for Women Children and Social Welfare
  • Mahendra Paswan – Industry
  • Dhruba Angdambe – State Minister for Supplies
  • Om Sari Gharti – Youth and Sports
  • Suryaman Dong – State Minister for Youth and Sports

Maoists recall ministers

KATHMANDU, July 31: With Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal unfazed by pressure to change the Maoist ministers in his cabinet, largest coalition partner UCPN (Maoist) Saturday decided to withdraw its incumbent ministers, and also to withdraw support from the government on Sunday unless Khanal relents.

A standing committee meeting of the Maoist party on Saturday afternoon took the decision to this effect.

Maoist leaders said the next standing committee meeting on Sunday will discuss withdrawing the party´s support to the government if Prime Minister Khanal does not administer oath of office to the new Maoist minister-nominees by then.

Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal reached the prime minister´s official residence at Baluwatar in the evening and handed in the incumbent Maoist ministers´ joint resignation to Khanal as the latter did not induct the new ministerial nominees in the cabinet despite repeated ultimatums from the largest party in parliament.

Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara and Minister for Information and Communications Agni Sapkota had already tendered their resignations and vacated their official residences immediately after the Maoist party decided to change its team in the cabinet.

Maoist leaders said they are not going to wait any longer. “We will wait till Sunday to see whether or not the prime minister administers oath to our party´s nominees and then decide accordingly,” Maoist Vice-chairman Narayankaji Shrestha, who was to lead the party in the government, told Republica.

Shrestha said his party is likely to withdraw its support from the government, and that would lead to the resignation of the prime minister. “The prime minister won´t have any option then other than to step down,” said Shrestha.

However, Khanal´s aides at Baluwatar said the prime minister still believed that the Maoist leaders wouldn´t take such a harsh decision. “The prime minister believes the Maoist leaders will not take such an unpleasant decision under the sway of emotion,” the prime minister´s press advisor, Surya Thapa, told Republica.

Leaders at Baluwatar think that such a decision would boomerang on the Maoists themselves and there is no alternative to reaching an understanding among the three major political parties with regard to settling the current stalemate.

“Such a decision will prove to be more harsh and unpleasant for the Maoist leaders themselves than for the prime minister,” Thapa said.

He said during the one-on-one talks with Dahal, the prime minister urged him to seek a solution that would also be acceptable to the main opposition Nepali Congress (NC), which has been obstructing parliamentary proceedings in recent days demanding formation of a national consensus government.

According to Thapa, the Maoist chairman told Khanal that he submitted the Maoist leaders´ joint resignation as per a party decision and he also was for ending the stalemate in consensus.

Prior to holding talks with Dahal, the prime minister also held a one-on-one meeting with Maoist Senior Vice-chairman Mohan Baidya, who leads the hardline faction in the party. “He insisted that the prime minister go ahead with inducting the new team of ministers in the cabinet,” said Thapa.

Maoist standing committee member Netra Bikram Chand, who is close to Baidya, said the standing committee meeting on Sunday will discuss whether or not to withdraw the party´s support to the government, depending on what action the prime minister takes.

Cabinet reshuffle likely on Monday

KATHMANDU, Aug 1: After a week-long bickering over cabinet reshuffle, the prime minister´s positive response on the issue of inducting minister nominees from the largest coalition partner UCPN (Maoist) has finally brought a thaw the relations between the two major coalition partners, CPN-UML and UCPN (Maoist).

Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal is likely to induct the minister nominees from the UCPN (Maoist) on Monday.

The prime minister agreed to reshuffle the cabinet after the Maoist leaders agreed to reduce the number of new ministers and to expedite the twin tasks of concluding the peace process and statute drafting in the remaining one-month of the Constituent Assembly (CA) term.

Khanal said he had not been able to reshuffle the cabinet earlier because the list of ministers was long and time inappropriate. “It was difficult to reshuffle the cabinet as the Maoists had submitted a long list of 24 minister-nominees and we were expected to move ahead on the basis of consensus,” the prime minister said at a press meet on Sunday.

Khanal informed that he would induct only 11 cabinet ministers. Maoists had suggested to the prime minister to accommodate 12 ministers and 12 state ministers in the cabinet. Though the Maoists have staked claim to the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies, Khanal´s aides in Baluwatar said the issue is yet to be finalized as the portfolio was earlier allocated to another coalition partner Madhesi People´s Rights Forum (MPRF). This issue needs to be settled through consensus between Prime Minister Khanal, Dahal and the MPRF chairman.

The prime minister said the renewed commitment by Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has turned the situation in his favor. “I learnt that the Maoist chairman a little while ago has promised that his party is ready to set the standards for the integration, fix the number of combatants to be integrated into the security agencies, settle the issue of rank harmonization and rehabilitation package, among other things,” Khanal told media persons. “He is also ready to categorize the Maoist combatants depending on whether they want to join security forces or opt for rehabilitation.”

Khanal informed that Dahal has also pledged to prepare the first integrated draft of the new constitution before the extended CA term expires on August 31.

“I further request the Maoists to create a situation favorable for cabinet reshuffle by withdrawing the resignation of incumbent Maoist ministers,” he said. On Saturday, Dahal handed over a joint resignation of all Maoist ministers to the prime minister for not inducting the new team into the cabinet. The Maoist leaders had also threatened to withdraw the party´s support to the government.

Asked about the probability of inducting new Maoist ministers in the cabinet on Monday, the prime minister´s press advisor Surya Thapa said the prime minister and the Maoist chairman are yet to sort out some issues.

Maoists express commitment to peace process

Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal earlier in the afternoon said that his party is committed to the peace process and that the cabinet reshuffle would not hinder the process of forming a national consensus government.

“The process of categorizing the combatants could be completed by August 31 if the parties agree on rehabilitation packages,” said Dahal addressing a press conference at the party headquarters in Paris Danda on Sunday.

Dahal reiterated that his party is also ready to strike a deal on all issues of integration and prepare a draft of the constitution, but added that other political parties should also share “equal responsibility” for the peace process to come to fruition.

Dahal argued that the cabinet reshuffle would not impede the formation of a national consensus government. “We are ready to take initiatives for the formation of a new government within 24 hours of cabinet reshuffle,” said Dahal.

He said his party decided to continue to support the government after being assured by the prime minister that the minister nominees from the party would be sworn in.

Maoists had set Sunday as the deadline for Khanal to administer oath of office and secrecy to the party´s minister nominees, saying that they would otherwise withdraw their support to the government

Time will prove I was correct – Prachanda

The recently UCPN-M Central Committee meeting could go a long way in changing the ways of the party and the party leadership. Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” decided to address calls for “reforms” from the second rank leadership. Now that the turbulent times are over‚ “Prachanda” looks ahead and says peace and constitution writing processes will take a significant leap.

Some decisions of your party’s recent Central Committee seem to be harsher than the party’s earlier stance. How can you convince other parties?

We had an extended CC meeting because we had to deal with internal struggle and issues of national importance. But we have passed the work plan on peace‚ constitution and consensus. It is not true that our decisions are harsh.

How can you forge agreement on withdrawing dual security and on army integration?

Remove dual security for leaders who didn’t become ministers is problematic. The state should provide alternative security. We accepted the NA proposal for integrating PLA under its directorate. All other integration issues will be finalised after discussions‚ including who will lead the directorate. All PLA combatants must be fit for the security forces. Unit-wise integration will be best for both NA and PLA.

Is regrouping and preparing first draft of constitution possible by August 31?

It is possible provided the NC and Madhes-based parties are serious. Forging agreement on all issues in a package will be best. We are close to agreement on three issues — number of combatants to be integrated‚ modality and rehabilitation package. Regrouping will begin after we agree on the three tasks.

How will you prepare the first draft when there is no consensus on state restructuring‚ forms of governance and electoral system?

We are close to consensus on forms of governance with executive president. All parties agree on proportional and inclusive election system in principle. The issue of state restructuring is a bit complex. We can put differing views in the index and take the decision of the majority to the people through the first draft of the constitution.

What will happen to the five-point deal with the CC’s cabinet reshuffle decision?

We don’t have differences on forming national consensus government and taking the peace and constitution drafting processes ahead. Nobody should confuse our cabinet reshuffle decision with the five-point deal‚ but without consensus the PM’s resignation would be useless. Sending a new team to the cabinet was purely our party’s internal issue of ensuring inclusiveness. It won’t affect the five-point deal.

Isn’t the decision to send one vice-chairman to the existing cabinet and the other to lead the national consensus government conflicting?

No. Dr Baburam Bhattarai is second in rank after Kiran. Kiranji is not in CA‚ so he will not be the PM candidate. It’s now Bhattarai’s turn to lead the government. Narayan Kaji Shrestha ranks third. So he will lead the party in the incumbent government. Demands have been raised for the general secretary’s leadership in government and NC has been saying you should lead the government. If the party wants‚ anyone can become PM‚ even a CC member‚ if the party decides. It’s wrong to say Bhattarai cannot complete the peace and statute drafting processes.

When will you hand over leadership of the Parliamentary Party to Baburam Bhattarai?

We have not taken any decision in this regard.

Leaders who initiated the signature campaign claim you are in minority. Don’t you have to step down on moral ground?

That’s a wrong proposition. I have never been in minority. We cannot accept signature campaigns from outside the party committees. Firstly‚ it’s not true that they have garnered majority against me. Secondly we cannot consider issues that don’t appear in the CC. Thirdly‚ all leaders were for my leadership. So there is no question of resigning on moral ground. The leaders harassed you a lot this time. Ups and downs‚ and turns keep coming. However‚ this time it was intense and it left a different impression. It was like labour pain that brings happiness after birth.

Leaders have united against your supremacy in the party. Why?

I think raising questions is normal. That has happened in the past. Now the party is in open politics‚ it has grown in both national and international fronts. So internal struggle has also become more intense.

It’s been two decades that you have not held a national convention. Why are you afraid of democratic practice within your party?

I am not afraid. During the war‚ we could not hold a convention. But we organised the second national conference in 2000. We organised unity convention from which we emerged as Unified CPN-Maoist. The latest CC has decided to hold a national convention. Leaders have accused you of not implementing collective leadership endorsed two years back. I don’t agree. We have been practicing collective leadership since long. I don’t accept the leadership is centralized. The party should examine this. Holding the chairman responsible for all the ills is not justifiable.

Leaders say you have become opportunist‚ arrogant‚ reformist etc. What do you say?

These are wrong allegations. If we agree with the change in politics‚ achievements of the decade-long people’s war‚ it’s against Marxism to oppose the leadership. Changes in society will prove that my leadership was correct.

It will lead to PM’s resignation: Bhattarai

Maoist Vice-chairman Dr Baburam Bhattarai is the party’s official candidate for prime minister of a national consensus government. Bhattarai talks to Republica over Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal’s reluctance to induct the party’s nominees into his cabinet.

There is a new twist to ongoing political developments after Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal refused to reshuffle the cabinet? What is the dispute about?

Our official policy is to take initiatives for a national consensus government that would conclude the peace process and constitution drafting. So we should not be misunderstood. The problem surfaced as our party went into lengthy discussions on the issue of inclusion and proportionality and we were a bit late in nominating ministers to give the cabinet full shape. We are, however, trying to find middle ground to resolve the disputes. The cabinet ministers can be sworn-in in the first phase and if we don´t see the possibility of forming a new government, then we can administer oath to state ministers.

Why do you think the prime minister has rejected your party´s nominations? Do you smell a rat in this?

The way the prime minister has been reluctant to reshuffle the cabinet is against the spirit of coalition culture. I am not sure why he has behaved the way he has. The argument he has forwarded to justify his stance is flawed as we are also not against the formation of a consensus government. The party that has already fixed its prime ministerial candidate for a national consensus government cannot be in favor of giving continuity to the current government. All we have been saying is that the cabinet should get full shape until a new cabinet is in place.

What is the possibility of formation of a national consensus government?

We have argued that the cabinet must be reshuffled and given full shape. And immediately after that we should hold serious talks on the formation of a national consensus government for the sake of peace and constitution. All the contentious issues should be immediately dealt with in a package.

What will be the scenario if the prime minister refuses to reshuffle the cabinet?

It will create a moral crisis for us as we have already made an official decision to send new ministers into the cabinet. The UML may also face the same problem if it has officially decided not to reshuffle the cabinet under the pretext of abiding by the five-point deal. So it will ultimately lead to the resignation of the prime minister. We will wait for the prime minister´s response for the next couple of days and then take decisions accordingly.

It is said that you and Senior Vice-chairman Mohan Baidya don´t hold the same view on the issue of the government as you are in favor of forming a national consensus government and Baidya favors giving continuity to the government through a reshuffle?

It could just be a rumor. Our party has unanimously decided to give full shape to the current government before forming a national consensus government. We have no differences between us and there is no dispute about this in the party.

CPN-Unified vows to fight corruption‚ crime

HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE

KATHMANDU: CPN-Unified today stated that the party has taken initiatives to forge a long-term alliance with like-minded left parties to fight corruption and criminal activities committed under political cover.

According to general secretary of the party, Ram Singh Shrish, the party has begun talks with Mani Thapa-led Revolutionary Communist Party and Matrika Yadav-led CPN-Maoist to establish a long-term front against corruption and crimes committed by the leaders and cadres of the major political parties.

He further said the parties would also launch some actions against such corrupted leaders. Shrish said talks are under way between his party and Thapa on merging the two parties.

The central committee meeting of the party had decided to hold eighth national convention in Butwal from September 24-30. A nine-member team has been formed under Shrish for the preparation.

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