Oli to decide on Cabinet reshuffle by the end of the weekAt least eight sitting ministers and two provincial chief ministers are likely to be relieved of their current positions, party insiders say.
After directing his secretariat to step down, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli will now be shuffling his Cabinet by the end of this week, according to leaders from the ruling Nepal Communist Party.
According to party insiders, Oli and his party Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal are mulling over a major overhaul, not just of the Cabinet but also of provincial chief ministers and internal party positions including provincial chiefs.
“The prime minister will decide on the reshuffle by Thursday,” said a ruling party leader, who is also a sitting minister, on condition of anonymity.
One of Oli’s aides, who is preparing to leave office, told the Post on condition of anonymity that Oli and Dahal on Monday discussed the Cabinet reshuffle and other major changes, including some key appointments to the party, ambassadorial positions and constitutional bodies.
The ongoing exercise is seen as an attempt to correct past mistakes and balance party dynamics by giving various state functionaries a fair shake. As many party leaders are idle, there is growing discontent within the party, which has led the two co-chairs to plan a major overhaul.
Oli and Dahal have agreed to either replace or shuffle at least eight sitting ministers. At least two chief ministers are also likely to be relieved.
Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai, who was inducted after the demise of Rabindra Adhikari in a helicopter crash; Bhanubhakta Dhakal, who was inducted after law minister Sher Bahadur Tamang resigned following a controversy; Communications Minister Gokul Baskota; Minister for Water Resources Bina Magar; Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa; and Energy Minister Barshaman Pun will possibly be among those who remain in Oli’s Cabinet after the reshuffle, albeit with different portfolios.
Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada, whose two-year term as a member of the National Assembly will expire in three months, could be appointed as Nepali ambassador to the United States of America. Possible new faces in the Oli Cabinet, according to leaders, are Janardan Sharma, Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, Haribol Gajurel, Surendra Pandey and Bishnu Poudel. Party general secretary Poudel, who is also a former finance minister, could replace Khatiwada. One of Oli’s core leaders, who many surmise to be Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali, will be brought into the Prime Minister’s Office.
Party insiders said Province 5 Chief Minister Shankar Pokhrel will be relieved and given a key responsibility in Kathmandu, while Karnali Province Chief Minister Mahendra Bahadur Shahi is likely to be replaced by Yam Lal Kandel.
According to the sitting minister, the prime minister has floated two options—either all ministers can resign en masse so that Oli can choose from among them for reappointment, or he can ask specific ministers to resign. The leader, however, refused to divulge any details about the reshuffle, including which ministers will be relieved and who will be moved around.
The reshuffle, however, has not figured into any of the ruling party’s top-level meetings, including the secretariat meet held on Monday morning.
“We did not discuss anything about the Cabinet reshuffle today,” said Jhala Nath Khanal, a senior leader of the party. “Maybe the issue will be brought up in the next secretariat meeting, which will be held in a few days.”
Leaders on the party’s highest decision-making body—the nine-member secretariat—expect Oli to present his reshuffle plan at the next meeting, but the secretariat members have been told that the major agenda for the upcoming meeting has to do finalising the remaining tasks of party unification. The party has yet to form a politburo—a significant decision-making body for a communist party.
One member of Oli’s secretariat, however, said that since changes to the Cabinet were the prime minister’s prerogative, they will not be discussed at party meetings.
“The prime minister will not discuss Cabinet issues in the party meetings, as is the past practice,” said the PM’s secretariat member.
Oli has not been happy with the performance of many of his ministers, as numerous unpopular decisions and off-the-cuff remarks have tainted the image of the ruling party, leaders say.
While some within the party believe that changes to the Cabinet should be discussed with the party leadership, others say that such a sensitive matter will lead to more tensions within the party, which is already divided between former party lines. Oli’s relations with Dahal, who has long expressed discontent at being sidelined in the party, are already fraught.
“The two leaders will possibly only bring the Cabinet reshuffle to the party after they’ve finalised the changes,” said Haribol Gajurel, a standing committee member.
Since being discharged from the hospital after two rounds of dialysis, Oli has gone on a decision-making spree, replacing provincial governors, asking his secretariat to step down and now, planning a Cabinet reshuffle. According to ruling party leaders, Oli wants to counter the public perception that he is infirm and wants to send the message that he needs no rest.