Dahal in no mood to give Home to RSPRabi Lamichhane yet to clear his name, say top Maoist Centre leaders.
Despite pressure from the ruling coalition partner Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) to reinstate its chair Rabi Lamichhane as home minister, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal appears reluctant to do so.
Krishna Bahadur Mahara, vice-chairman of the CPN (Maoist Centre) and the party spokesperson, said Prime Minister Dahal will keep the home portfolio with himself until the Supreme Court issues the full text of its verdict in the case related to Lamichhane’s citizenship.
“We cannot immediately reinstate him as home minister as he is yet to complete some legal procedures,” Mahara told the Post. “Prime Minister Dahal will himself lead the Ministry of Home Affairs until the Supreme Court issues the full text of its verdict.”
The RSP chair, who had resigned from the Cabinet on January 27 and lost the party presidency after the Supreme Court declared his Nepali citizenship invalid, re-acquired his citizenship two days later, on Sunday.
Soon after acquiring his citizenship, Lamichhane met Prime Minister Dahal and demanded that he be restored to his former Cabinet position. He met Dahal on Tuesday again with the same request.
“As per the agreement among the coalition partners, the Ministry of Home Affairs belongs to our party and we have been urging the prime minister to return the portfolio,” Santosh Pariyar, the RSP chief whip, told the Post. “The party has, however, not decided who will lead the ministry.”
Lamichhane was appointed home minister during the formation of the Dahal-led government on December 26. However, the Supreme Court on January 27 stripped Lamichhane of his lawmaker position, saying the citizenship certificate he produced to contest the parliamentary election was invalid as he had not completed due process to reclaim his Nepali citizenship after surrendering his US citizenship.
Lamichhane, who had acquired Nepali citizenship by descent in March 1994, became a US citizen in 2014. As per the Nepal Citizenship Act 2006 section 10 (1), any citizen of Nepal who voluntarily acquires citizenship of a foreign country automatically loses the Nepali citizenship. Nevertheless, Lamichhane contested the November election on the basis of the citizenship certificate received in 1994 although it had become invalid after his acquisition of the US citizenship.
Article 78 (1) of the constitution allows a non-parliamentarian to become a minister even without a parliamentary berth. However, Article 78 (2) says that a person appointed minister under such a provision should obtain membership of the Federal Parliament within six months from the date of taking oath as minister.
Citing these provisions, Lamichhane is reclaiming his lost Cabinet position. Lamichhane is reportedly planning to contest the by-election from Chitwan-2 to fulfill the constitutional provision of Article 78 (2). Lamichhane was elected lawmaker from the same constituency last November.
The Supreme Court verdict, meanwhile, has also opened the door for criminal investigation into Lamichhane. He obtained a Nepali passport in May 2015 although his Nepali citizenship certificate had been automatically invalidated in March 2014 after becoming an American citizen.
A case could be filed against him for obtaining a passport based on an invalid citizenship certificate. “As Lamichhane could be prosecuted for passport fraud, Prime Minister Dahal does not want to reinstate him as a minister right away,” a source at Prime Minister Dahal's Secretariat told the Post.
Some RSP leaders also claim that if the party does not get back the Ministry of Home Affairs, it could withdraw its support to the government and recall its ministers.
However, the chip whip of the party, Pariyar, says no such course of action has been decided. “The party is yet to decide on pulling out from the government. Talks are still underway and hopefully the issue will soon be resolved.”
A deputy general secretary of the Maoist Centre, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, went a step further: “Not just Lamichhane, Prime Minister Dahal is unwilling to immediately appoint anyone from the RSP as home minister.”
“As Lamichhane’s legal case has not been resolved, the Maoist Centre believes that giving the ministry to him or any of his other party members will create conflict of interest,” the deputy general secretary said.