House meeting nears but there’s still no candidate for SpeakerOli has become more flexible on the candidate for Speaker and has agreed to Dahal’s choice, party insiders say.
With just two days remaining for the meeting of the House of Representatives, there are fears of another postponement due to an inability to reach consensus on a candidate for Speaker. But the ruling party leaders say that Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has recently become much more flexible in his choice of candidate and is willing to compromise on someone acceptable to all party leaders.
According to party insiders, Oli is willing to hand over the leadership of the House to the Maoists on the condition that the new Speaker “defend his government”.
Oli, who had hardened his position after being sidelined in a secretariat meeting on January 8, softened his stance after speaking with former UML leaders and has agreed to accept Dahal’s candidate, said a minister and Standing Committee member. In the January 8 meeting, Dahal had managed to get most leaders, including senior leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal, on his side, leaving Oli in a minority position.
“Dahal has told Oli that he will propose a candidate for Speaker and Oli has agreed,” said the Standing Committee member.
Following a nearly three-hour one-on-one meeting with Oli, Dahal had told leaders from his faction that the prime minister has become more flexible.
According to Devendra Poudel, also a standing committee member, Oli has asked Dahal to propose a candidate but has also said that he will provide some suggestions of his own.
“I think things will unfold on Saturday,” said Poudel.
Dahal, who has so far been in favour of Agni Sapkota for Speaker, is now considering other candidates, given the reservations expressed by many former UML leaders. Sapkota also has a murder case against him sub judice in the Supreme Court. But as a close confidante of Dahal, Sapkota remains his first choice.
In case the UML faction demands a female candidate, Dahal is willing to consider Standing Committee member Pampha Bhusal. But Bhusal represents a faction led by Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa and many leaders from that faction, including Chief Whip Dev Gurung, have publicly opposed the United States-led Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Nepal Compact. UML leaders fear that Bhusal could be a repeat of Krishna Bahadur Mahara, the former Speaker who Oli has accused of holding up the MCC.
If not Bhusal or Sapkota, Dahal could also propose long-time confidante Haribol Gajurel.
“Earlier, I had told Dahal that I would rather continue with active politics when he asked for my opinion,” Gajurel told the Post. “But I will be ready if the party decides so.”
Party spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha, however, cautioned against making any rash judgements, saying all lawmakers were eligible for the post of Speaker.
“Why don’t you wait for some time to see how things will unfold,” Shrestha told the Post.