“The party has become minister-centric as opposed to people-centric.”
So, what does that mean? It means, Bhim Rawal explains, that the Prime Minister has allowed his ministers in the government to favour own constituencies instead of ensuring that all lawmakers within the CPN party would get a “fair share” in the budget. Bhim Rawal and sixty-or-so fellow CPN lawmakers complain that ministers have served their own areas as opposed to giving all CPN lawmakers a fair share in the budget for their respective constituencies. He adds:
“The government did not allocate a budget for the 750MW West Seti Hydropower Project, but earmarked budgets for ministers’ wards [instead].”The protests grew so loud that Prime Minister Oli called the disgruntled lawmakers to a meeting on Sunday to calm things down. If lawmakers continue to openly speak against party decisions in Parliament, it will be like “giving ammunition to the opposition parties”, Oli cautioned. He urged the lawmakers to instead maintain party discipline and settle the issue “internally” within the party. Co-chairman, Prachanda, even promised to look at the budget again:
“I respect your aspirations and demand for judicious development of all parts of the country. We will try our best to address your concerns.”
If past experience is anything to go by, however, chances are that the disgruntled lawmakers in the CPN will not all get a “fair share” in the budget for their respective constituencies. Part of the reason has to do with “favouritism”. Indeed, favouritism in Nepali politics is a practice which in no small part involves politicians in power who favour their own constituencies at the expense of other politicians – even from the same party – and their respective constituencies.
To be sure, the budget is officially supposed to be allocated according to formal plans and policies. The distribution of the government budget is formally guided by criteria such as “where the budget is most needed” or “where the most people benefits”. However, a practice of favouring “one’s own constituency” has always weighed heavily on the decision-making, and the current dispute within the CPN only shows with all clarity that this practice is still very much alive!In April, Oli pledged commitment as Prime Minister to not tolerate corruption of any form and to strengthen democracy in a “real sense”. But when ministers favour their own constituencies, law-makers evaluate the government budget according to the share they get for their respective constituencies, and the Prime Minister says that the issue of dividing the budget needs to be settled “internally” within the party, can that ever evolve into such a “real” democracy?
For more on the practice of favouring “one’s own constituency” in Nepali politics (and the potential consequences), jump to the relevant sections in our Crash Course on Local Politics in Nepal. The crash course currently needs a revision as the formal system of local government has changed. But the informal “system” of doing politics seems to have changed much less, as the current dispute within the party now in power, the CPN, only illustrates with great clarity.
“The past appears to live on in the present.” Comment by a local politician in Kavre district on political practices in Nepal around 2002.