With growing internal rifts and criticism from outside, a Cabinet reshuffle is likelyRuling party insiders say party co-chairs are likely to use a Cabinet reshuffle to balance internal party politics
With tensions growing within the ruling Nepal Communist Party over ideological differences, Co-chairmen KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal are considering a Cabinet reshuffle while also filling up several vacant party positions.
The communist-led government faces widespread criticism over contentious bills, even as internal issues over party unification continue to fester. The leadership is now attempting to address these concerns and belay external criticism by working simultaneously on a Cabinet reshuffle and power sharing, as rifts continue to widen between various party factions led by Oli, Dahal and senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal.
“As both co-chairs are facing increasing criticism for the status quo, a Cabinet reshuffle is imperative,” Bishnu Rijal, a central committee member who has close relations with Nepal, told the Post.
Various important party positions, including a key role in the organisation department, require filling and Oli hopes to use a Cabinet reshuffle to balance out the power equation in the party while making appointments to these vacant positions, say party insiders.
“I cannot say the exact date but after the approval of the budget by the Upper House next week, discussions on a Cabinet reshuffle and filling party positions will begin,” said one leader who spoke on condition of anonymity as he feared retribution. “Otherwise, the status quo will continue, which will fuel resentment among party members.”
The Cabinet reshuffle is not as serious as filling vacant party positions and completing the unification process, say leaders.
The party has yet to finalise the names of 77 district committee chiefs and also has yet to appoint leaders to key departments. The party has yet to form its politburo, a key committee for any communist party, and is also struggling to shape up its political ideology. While former CPN-UML leaders want to continue with the ‘People’s Multi-party Democracy’, former Maoist leaders are in favour of the “21st-century People’s Democracy” as the party’s ideology.
“The unification process won’t move ahead if ideological differences are not settled,” said Hemraj Bhandari, a central member of the party. If the party retains the UML’s ideology, Maoist leaders are unlikely to get a chance to lead the party, he said.
Even as the party remains divided, prime minister and party Co-chair Oli is attempting to use ideology to keep the former Maoists in check, said key leaders. Former Maoist leaders claim that the UML’s ‘People’s Multi-party Democracy’ is obsolete as it doesn’t recognise federalism, republicanism, or inclusiveness. But by sticking to the UML’s ideology, Oli hopes to unite all former UML factions against the Maoists.
“The political document, the heart of any political party, was drafted by Pradeep Gyawali, a confidante of Oli, Bhim Rawal and Narayan Kaji Shrestha,” said one standing committee member. As Gyawali has close relations with leaders from across the ideological line, the party’s current line of ‘people’s democracy’ was accepted by everyone, he said.
“It will soon be revealed why leaders are singing such an irrelevant song at this time,” said standing committee member Beduram Bhusal, one of the members of the drafting committee, referring to the debate over ideology.
As both Oli and Dahal manoeuvre within the party, leaders believe that the co-chairs have possibly agreed to a ‘package deal’ to address both internal politics and the external Cabinet reshuffle.
After a long one-on-one meeting with Oli at Baluwatar this week, Dahal affirmed that a Cabinet reshuffle is due. Party insiders say that Oli and Dahal will soon discuss removing poor-performing ministers and replacing them in a power-sharing ‘package deal’.
“Once the budget is endorsed by the National Assembly,” Narayan Kaji Shrestha, the party spokesperson, said, “we will move forward with the Cabinet reshuffle likely within two weeks.”