Nagarik Unmukti throws spanner in PM’s Cabinet planRegional party lays claim to urban development ministry, which prime minister had allotted to Nepali Congress.
Tika R Pradhan
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal couldn’t expand his Cabinet on Thursday as well after some fringe parties insisted on getting the ministries allocated to other coalition partners.
One such fringe party is the Nagarik Unmukti Party that has been laying claim to the Ministry of Urban Development, which Dahal had already allocated to the largest party, the Nepali Congress.
Although coalition partners have agreed on a tentative division of 21 ministries, the prime minister failed to appoint ministers after several parties made claims to a few plum ministries.
“The prime minister is trying to settle the differences after some parties insisted on getting ministries that have already been allocated to other parties,” said Ramesh Malla, personal secretary to Prime Minister Dahal. “It may take some time to resolve the issue.”
According to members of the prime minister's secretariat, the Cabinet will be expanded on Friday afternoon.
As per Thursday’s agreement, the Congress will lead eight ministries—Finance; Foreign Affairs; Defense; Urban Development; Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation; Federal Affairs and General Administration; Health and Population; and Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs.
The Congress is preparing to send its team to the Dahal Cabinet under the leadership of Vice President Purna Bahadur Khadka as a deputy prime minister.
Besides the prime minister, the Maoist Centre will have five ministries—Home Affairs; Communication and Information Technology; Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation; Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation; and Women, Children and Senior Citizens.
The CPN (Unified Socialist) was demanding three ministries, but had to settle for two—Physical Infrastructure and Transport, and Forest and Environment. Currently, the Maoist Centre’s senior vice chair Narayan Kaji Shrestha as a deputy prime minister is leading the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport.
The Janata Samajbadi Party will get two ministries—Education, Science and Technology, and Agriculture and Livestock Development.
But the Nagarik Unmukti Party, which was given the Ministry of Youth and Sports, insists that it wants no portfolio other than Urban Development.
“We want Urban Development instead of Youth and Sports,” said Damodar Pandit, spokesperson of the Nagarik Unmukti Party.
As the leaders of the fringe party were insistent on their demand, the prime minister delayed Cabinet expansion, according to leaders privy to the development.
The party has decided to send its chair Ranjita Shrestha to the government.
The Loktantrik Janata Party has already nominated Sharat Singh Bhandari as minister for Labour, Employment and Social Security.
The demand of the Janamat Party, however, has been fulfilled this time as the party is set to get the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. Abdul Khan of the party currently heads the Ministry of Water Supply and he will soon switch the portfolio.
The Ministry of Water Supply will then go to the Nepal Samajbadi Party. The Baburam Bhattarai-led party is likely to nominate Mahendra Raya Yadav, who is the only directly-elected lawmaker of the party, as minister.
While addressing a function in Bharatpur on Thursday, Prime Minister Dahal hinted at the ongoing dispute among coalition partners over ministerial allocations. “We are yet to finalise the allocation of a few ministries,” Dahal told reporters at Chitwan on Thursday morning. “I was planning to expand the Cabinet and administer oaths to new ministers today. It will happen tomorrow [Friday] morning, if not today.”
Two of the coalition partners that supported the government during the prime minister’s second vote of confidence have opted not to join the Cabinet. The Rastriya Swatantra Party having 19 seats in the House of Representatives has decided to stay outside the government after it could not get the ministries the party leaders were earlier leading.
Also, the Rastriya Janamorcha has decided to stay out of the Cabinet.
Government’s Common Minimum Programme ready
Meanwhile, the task force of the ruling coalition is close to finalising the government’s Common Minimum Programme (CMP).
According to the leaders involved in drafting the document, the ruling coalition has expressed its commitment to conclude the peace process within two years and complete the police adjustment (in line with the federal setup) within six months after the Cabinet gets its full shape.
The CMP also promises an Election Act to ensure voting rights to all Nepali citizens living abroad. The cases filed against those involved in various political movements will be dropped, fake cases annulled and political prisoners released.
The task force includes Ramesh Lekhak from the Nepali Congress, Rajendra Shrestha from the Janata Samajbadi Party, Shakti Basnet from the Maoist Centre and Vijay Kumar Poudel from the CPN (Unified Socialist).
However, task force members also say they are yet to give a final touch to the CMP. "We have presented our draft. Now it will be finalised after discussing it among all the coalition partners," said Rajendra Shrestha, a member of the task force.