Monday, 1 September 2008

The Vice-President: His Duty, Status and Demand

The election to the post of first Vice-President (VP), let alone the President, of the Republic of Nepal is not an easy one as our recent experience suggests. No one knows it better than VP Pramananda Jha. Before the election, the name of the post itself was sufficient to excite the candidates. In that process very few seem to care about the nature of the job and the responsibility that the office holder has to carry overtime. Now, Mr. Pramananda Jha has fully realized that his job is not different from the one described by the first Vice-President of the United States of America Mr. John Adams. He described his job as "the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived". More than a century after Mr. Adams, John Nance Garner, the first Vice-President under Roosevelt, dismissed the job of Vice-President "as not worth a pitcher of warm piss". In the words of Mr. Jha too, "Except working as the head of state in the absence of the President, the constitution has not given any role to the Vice-President". In that sense, the responsibility of Nepal's Vice-President is still less than that of the United States, where the Vice-President has at least to chair the meeting of the Senate.

In the United States, where nine of the Vice-Presidents have gone on to be Presidents due to death or resignation of the President, the job of the Vice-President is always taken very lightly by the public at all levels. As the story goes, it is said that a man had two sons. One of them was a teacher of a primary school and his great grandson is now a professor in a college in the south. It is said that the other son was elected to the post of Vice- President and nobody knew nothing about him and his family after that.

We will not be surprised if Mr. Jha's comment, after some time, would become more harsh than that. First of all, it is a temporary post for a limited period of a government whose main job is to frame the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nepal. Secondly, the responsibility of his boss, the President, is only ceremonial, unlike the President of the United States, and, he, therefore, cannot provide any task to keep him busy.

Nevertheless, the Vice-President, talking to a selected media person at his office in Bahadur Bhaban- it is easy to wonder why he visits his office and how he passes his time there - said that "Time has come to give more responsibility to the President and the Vice-President. My opinion is that all things should go to the President through me. I have talked to the President in this regard." We do not know the response of the President but a detail study of his talk with the media shows that he has no respect for public money. Mr. Jha is trying to create another layer of bureaucracy with tax money by creating a post of Co-President.

He, therefore, proposed to increase the size of his office staff for nothing. According Himalayan News Service, "Jha urged the government to appoint press, political and foreign advisors to him. The Vice-President also called the government to provide funds to him so that he can provide relief to the helpless people, who frequent his office every day". Mr. Jha also asked the Constituent Assembly to make arrangements for his participation in CA sessions (The Himalayan Times, August 21, 2008). We will leave the reader to make his own conclusion from this observation coming from a man of Mr. Jha's position.(We have not touched his problem with the public due to his use of language in the swearing in ceremony at Shital Niwas and the case related with that in the Supreme Court).

The government has to be careful not to waste a single rupee to fulfill the demand of a person for whom we can show only pity for holding such a worthless job. We knew in the election that he represented the people, the strength of the people and he won the election. It was, however, not because of his character but because of method used by the political party that he was affiliated with at that time. Now he is only the Vice-President. It will remain so. We must remain unchanged. Respect for public money most remain the supreme goal for every government.

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