A combative journalist until recently, Rabi Lamichhane becomes Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister

Rabi Lamichhane tapped the public frustration over poor service delivery and massive corruption and won the elections. Now he will be in a position to ensure good governance. Will he be able to deliver?

NL Today

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Kathmandu: Until mid-June this year, Nepal’s popular television host Rabi Lamichhane was aggressive on the screen. He asked hard questions to the authorities in the hardest possible manner. Some would raise questions about his way of doing journalism. His critics argued he was doing ‘activism’ rather than journalism. 

He was aggressive toward the incidents of injustices. Using high-pitch voices, he, sometimes, used to provoke the public to demand justice and stand against those in power.

Many  saw him as the voice of the voiceless.  He was particularly appreciated for exposing frauds and injustice facing Nepali migrant workers. 

In less than a year since joining politics, journalist-turned-politician Rabi Lamichhane, on Monday, became Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs, a ministerial portfolio that is considered one of the most powerful ones, the portfolio that gives its occupant the power to initiate actions that can have tangible effects on the ground immediately. 

A meeting of the ruling coalition of seven parties has agreed to appoint Lamichhane, president of Rastriya Swatantra Party, the home minister in the new government. The Lamichhane-led Rastriya Swatantra Party has a strength of 20 seats in the lower house—the House of Representatives.

Talking to Nepal Live Today on condition of anonymity, a member of the party said that the newly-appointed Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal agreed to appoint Lamicchane the new home minister.

Little known until the federal parliament elections in November, Lamicchane’s party, however, won six seats through the first-past-the-post electoral system, and 13 through the proportional representation system. Lamicchane’s party and its election symbol ghanti (the bell) had become a major attraction of the youths in many parts of the country.

Now his role has been changed. As a journalist, he was vocal against injustice, thriving corruption and political cronyism. Now people will expect him to eliminate injustice, not just talk about it. 

Interestingly, he is now a member of the cabinet led by Maoist leader Prachanda, a politician who was severely criticized by Lamichhane before the elections. Lamichhane planned to contest the elections from Chitwan-3, the same constituency where Prachanda was planning to contest from. Later, Prachanda shifted to Gorkha-2. Reportedly, one of the major causes of his decision to shift to Gorkha from Chitwan was Rabi Lamichhane–Lamichhane’s popularity in Chitwan during the election was no match to any other leaders. 

People across the country are eagerly waiting whether this pre-election rivalry will be reflected in the cabinet.

Lamichhane stands accused of not relinquishing his Nepali citizenship while obtaining US citizenship and of using his old Nepali citizenship even after giving up US citizenship.

Meanwhile, as the former TV host takes oaths of office and secrecy, many people are asking a question to themselves:  Now that he is in the position to deliver rule of law, will he be able to? Will he? Only time will unfold whether he can ensure change or he will be a symbol of continuity–the continuity of corruption, nepotism, and bad governance.