A show of immorality in Lumbini

Shankar Pokharel (L) takes oath of office and secrecy after he was reappointed Lumbini Chief Minister following a high-voltage political drama.

Nishan Khatiwada

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: Hospitals in Lumbini province have been running short, Covid-19 patients struggling to get hospital beds. As in other parts of the country, there is panic in Lumbini too.

Lumbini is the second most impacted province after the Bagmati province. The data of MOHP as of May 3 states in Lumbini, the total number of people in home isolation is 12,518, organizational isolation is 763, ICU is 78, ventilators is 18. Furthermore, in the case of the total number of ICU beds and ventilators, Lumbini province falls behind Bagmati, Province 1, and Gandaki province, according to the same report.

But Chief Minister of Gandaki Shankar Pokharel has other priorities: Secure his position by hook or crook.

Root of conflict

On October 11, 2020, 18 NCP leaders registered a no-confidence motion against Chief Minister Mahendra Bahadur Shahi. Nearly all provincial lawmakers to challenge Shahi were from the former UML faction, while Shahi represented the former Maoist party. Shahi somehow managed to save his position as on October 23, the registered motion got rejected by majority votes.

This was before the dissolution of the House of Representatives on December 20, 2020 by K P Sharma Oli. Post-December, 2020, power struggle and conflict between K P Oli faction and Madhav Kumar Nepal-Pushpa Kamal Dahal faction inside NCP trickled down to the province grounds.

But the recent show in Lumbini was uglier.

Lumbini episode

On April 19, a no-confidence motion was filed against Chief Minister Shankar Pokharel at the provincial assembly secretariat. The no-confidence motion was about to be discussed on May 2, but his resignation appeared hours before. Shankar Pokharel again claimed for the position saying that he had a majority of 41 seats out of total 81. But this was not the case.

Bimala Wali (Khatri) sided with CPN Maoist Center, pushing Pokharel into a minority. Then two others decided to withdraw support. After that, Nepali Congress, CPN Maoist Center, JSPN, and Janamorcha collected signatures of 42 lawmakers proposing Maoist Center’s Kul Prasad KC as the new chief minister.

The opposition lawmakers protested to halt the swearing-in. But Pokahrel called the Province Head to his office under tight security and took an oath of the chief minister on May 2. After the incident, the opposition leaders at the central level are criticizing the move.

Shankar Pokharel did not have a majority yet he took an oath ignoring the chaotic situation in province politics.

Pokhrel’s move has been criticized across the spectrum. Maoist Center, Nepali Congress, JSPN, and Rashtriya Janamorcha on Monday issued a joint statement calling Pokharel’s move as unconstitutional, undemocratic, and a show of tyranny.

Quite dramatically, Dharma Bahadur Lal Shreevastav and Ajay Shahi who had withdrawn support of Pokharel on Sunday returned to CPN UML on Monday.

Show of immorality

Pokharel did not have a majority yet he took an oath ignoring the chaotic situation in province politics.

Analysts have called the Lumbini episode a matter of shame. “Now, morality seems to have ended in politics,” said Jagat Nepal, a senior journalist, political analyst and writer. “When Pokharel had lost the majority, he should have resigned.”

“My fear is such immoral activities as in Lumbini will put the constitution and democracy at risk,” he warned.

Pokharel failed morally, according to Nepal.

Political analyst Deepak Gajurel says it is naive on our part to expect morality from political leaders. “The whole system has not experienced any morality, leaders’ behavior is always immoral, whatever happened in Lumbini province is just an additional incident depicting such behavior,” he added.

However, the general public has questioned the morality of Shankar Pokharel and the Lumbini province government. Social media was flooded with posts criticizing the move.

“If the person who has lost the majority in provincial assembly still continues to remain the chief minister, that will mark the beginning of the unofficial end of 2015 constitution of Nepal,” wrote Vijaya Kumar Pandey, writer, and journalist, on Twitter.