House got Speaker after a month, but there is no certainty when it will get deputy SpeakerThe ruling party is most likely to give the post to Rastriya Janata Party Nepal, which itself is confused over the candidate.
The constitution requires the Speaker and the deputy Speaker to represent different parties and sexes.
As Agni Prasad Sapkota, a man from the ruling Nepal Communist Party, has already been elected Speaker, the position of deputy Speaker must go to other parties and the candidate must be a woman.
The Lower House does not have deputy Speaker ever since Shiva Maya Tumbahamphe resigned on January 20.
The ruling party doesn’t want the position to go to the main opposition Nepali Congress.
With the Samajbadi Party Nepal pulling out of the government on December 24 last year, saying the government was not sincere to address its demand for constitutional amendments, the ruling party is unlikely to give it the post.
The ruling party had offered the post to the Rastriya Janamorcha, but it did not accept.
Durga Poudel, who won the 2017 election from Pyuthan Constituency-1, is the only member from the party in the House of Representatives.
“Accepting the deputy Speaker’s post will mean ending our presence in Parliament,” Poudel told the Post. “We had no option but to reject the offer.”
The Rastriya Prajatantra Party and Nepal Majdoor Kisan Party don’t have women lawmakers, hence they cannot get the post.
This leaves the ruling party with no option than to offer the post to Rastriya Janata Party, Nepal.
According to insiders, a deal with the Rastriya Janata Party on deputy Speaker is possible, but its leaders have their own set of demands and they are divided.
“The ruling party leaders had proposed a package deal on all issues from deputy Speaker and ministerial berths at both federal and provincial governments,” said Keshav Jha, a general secretary of the party. “But Mahantha Thakur, a member of the praesidium, is not ready.”
When the party forged an alliance with the ruling party for the National Assembly election, many believed it was a precursor to a future deal on deputy Speaker.
The Janata Party, which withdrew its support to the government in March last year after its lawmaker Resham Chaudhary was handed down a life term by Kailali District Court for masterminding the Tikapur violence, has not given up its demand for constitutional amendments. Janata Party leaders say now there should be a larger deal on various issues, including Chaudhary, constitutional amendments, deputy Speaker and ministerial berths.
When it comes to deputy Speaker also, the party, however, is divided.
Thakur is in favour of Chanda Chaudhary as deputy Speaker. But Rajendra Mahato, also a member of the praesidium, is making a pitch for Amrita Agrahari.
“Discussions on the candidate are ongoing assuming that our party will get the post,” said Jha.
Party insiders say Thakur is for taking the deputy Speaker post but not keen on joining the government. But Mahato wants to be part of the government, provided that there is a deal on constitutional amendments.
A leader who spoke on condition of anonymity said discussions now are ongoing for letting the Thakur faction take the deputy Speaker post and the Mahato faction ministerial berths.
Ruling party leaders, however, said there has been no progress in deputy Speaker selection.
“The party wants the Janata Party to take the deputy Speaker post, but the Janata party has yet to decide,” Rekha Sharma, a central committee member of the ruling party, told the Post. “We are waiting for the Janata Party to make up its mind first.”
Officials at the Parliament Secretariat say the deputy Speaker election process will not move forward until the ruling party gives the green signal, as it holds decisive votes.
“The process should have moved ahead from the January 28 meeting itself,” a senior official at the Parliament Secretariat told the Post on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak to the media on the matter.
The next House meeting is scheduled for Tuesday.
Article 91 of the constitution says the elections of the Speaker and deputy Speaker have to be completed within 15 days since the first House meeting. It, however, is silent on the timeline for electing either the Speaker or the deputy Speaker when the posts go vacant when the House session is ongoing.
The winter session of Parliament began on December 20 last year and the deputy Speakers position has been vacant for two weeks.
Tika R Pradhan contributed reporting.