The Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) recently opted out of the government, triggering questions how mature it was to make an exit from power so early. In 42 days after joining the government, the party quitted it over its differences with the prime minister on regaining the post of home ministry portfolio. RSP, which made miraculous victory in November 20, 2022 general elections for the House of Representatives winning seven seats in the first-past-the-post (FTPT) category and 13 through the proportional representation. With a total of 20 seats, RSP has become the fourth largest party just behind Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, and CPN (Maoist Centre), which had a long history of struggles and movements.
The party which was formed countering all old traditional parties and their old leadership was often criticised as having no specific ideology and principles but attracted the attention of the masses on its slogan of transformation of the country and anti-corruption stand. When the party came to the parliament, it was not certain what it would do. However, the new political force chose to join the government. As Nepali Congress was making moves to form a government on the basis of the same alliance existing before the election, it failed to convince CPN-Maoist Centre and give it the first chance to lead the government. Amidst that uncertainty, CPN-Maoist Centre chose rather to break the alliance, and form a new one with UML. RSP also sided with the new alliance to form
But a writ filed by two advocates Yubaraj Poudel and Rabiraj Basyaula before the election came alive against the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane, which eventually stripped him of not only the post of DPM and home minister, but also the MP and party president. The Supreme Court (SC) decision had annulled his citizenship. But two days later, Lamichhane legitimised his citizenship and regained the party president, but could not get the lost posts of DPM and home minister. Rabi wants to come back to parliament after winning a possible by-election in his constituency, but PM Prachanda thwarted his objective denying him the post of home minister and even giving it to his party.
KP Sharma Oli, also supported Rabi and told the PM to give him the post. But the PM said that he would take a decision only after the full text of the decision comes from the court. This increased conflict between the PM and Rabi and his party resulting in RSP giving two days of ultimatum to PM and UML chairman Oli for giving him the post. The ultimatum didn’t work as the PM did not heed the RSP’s demand, perhaps because he was pressured from the party, or with his own intention to undermine the party that had already suffered from the court decision. Amid this situation, RSP declared its withdrawal from the government.
The move on the part of RSP was unexpected and totally immature. A party with fourth largest position in parliament should not have shown such a childish behaviour. This hasty step has raised some questions. Did RSP want the home portfolio to influence the investigation on him regarding his possessing of dual passport at a time? Is a party powerless merely because it does not have the home ministry portfolio? Did RSP had no vision for running government without a home portfolio, and did RSP had no other agenda of transformation of the country other than having the ministry? Did its other ministers- Shisir Khanal, Dol Prasad Aryal and Dr. Tosima Karki had no vision of change in their respective ministries? If they were to exit so early, why did they join the government at all?
In coalition culture, there should be some restraint in dealing with any problem that arises in relation to other partners. The Janata Samajbadi Party, Janamat Party and Nagarik Unmukti Party have also observed some restraints. JSP is supporting the government, even as it did not get the ministries it wanted and remains out of the government from the beginning. Janamat Party said it did not get the ministry it wanted, but still remains in government. Nagarik Unmukti is also not in the government, but supports it from outside pushing for its demands. But for RSP, which had already important ministries like education, labour and health had no urgency to go emotional on losing the home portfolio.
In the press meet organised to declare its exit from government, Rabi also vented annoyance upon some major media houses, even naming some well-known media personalities and editors for showing him guilty in citizenship case and influencing the court decision. It was perhaps a case like in a Nepali proverb that a serpent sees serpent's legs. Rabi himself was an influential journalist a few months ago. In journalism, sometimes we can see a tendency of making mountain out of a molehill, and this has happened in some cases. Some private media occasionally show that they can be the cause behind the rise and fall of a politician.
But as Rabi accused the whole media sector, and threatened to surround any media that writes ‘baseless’ news against him, he drew flak from the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, Nepal Media Society, and other organisations and individuals. It is not that there are no media in Nepal which can write the truth. However, we have to shun yellow journalism. But, Rabi had to show some restraint while accusing the whole media sector, and as a leader seeking to transform the country. He had to show some patience for stability so elusive in the country.
(Bhattarai is a former chief reporter at Rastriya Samachar Samiti.)