Gautam will be nominated to Upper House, party spokesperson saysOli reappoints Yubaraj Khatiwada as minister, leaving one seat in the National Assembly vacant.
The ruling party spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha said on Wednesday that Vice-chair Bamdev Gautam will get a seat in the National Assembly.
A seat has fallen vacant in the Upper House after the tenure of member Yubraj Khatiwada, also the minister for finance, expired on Tuesday. But the government hasn’t recommended a candidate for the seat.
“I don’t think the prime minister will go against the party’s decision,” said Shrestha, who was sworn in as a member of the National Assembly on Wednesday. “He (Oli) will nominate Gautam to the National Assembly once he recovers [from surgery]. There is no need to blow the issue out of proportion,” added Shrestha, who lost the contest for the Gorkha-2 seat in the Lower House during the 2017 elections.
Shrestha’s comment comes amid a rift between various factions of the party over its choice of candidate for the seat, which was until Tuesday occupied by Khatiwada.
The ruling party’s Secretariat meeting on February 26 decided to recommend Gautam, who lost the contest for the Bardiya-1 seat in the Lower House during the 2017 elections, to replace Khatiwada, nominated to the legislature by the president upon the government’s recommendation. Gautam has long been demanding a seat in the legislature.
Article 86 of the Constitution of Nepal says that the president shall nominate three Upper House members—at least one of them a woman—upon the recommendation of the Government of Nepal. Bimala Rai Poudyal and Ram Narayan Bidari, the other two lawmakers nominated by the president, along with Khatiwada, continue to serve in the Upper House as they received six-year tenures in a lottery draw.
However, Oli was reluctant to name Gautam to replace Khatiwada, largely due to a conflict between the prime minister and Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the other chairman of the party.
On Wednesday morning, hours before his surgery, Oli reappointed Khatiwada, who resigned on Tuesday after his tenure in the Upper House expired, as a minister in his Cabinet.
As per constitutional provisions, Khatiwada cannot continue as minister for more than six months—until the first week of September—without a seat in Parliament. If Khatiwada is to continue as minister, Oli needs to get him a seat in the National Assembly. In that case, Gautam’s hopes of making it to the Upper House will be shattered.
Khatiwada on Wednesday took his oath of office and secrecy as minister for finance, and communication and information technology. With Khatiwada’s appointment as finance minister, he is set to present the fiscal budget for 2020/2021, regardless of who gets nominated by the president for the vacant Upper House seat.
Meanwhile, following the government’s indecision over the nomination, only 18 members of the Upper House, elected under the polls held in November last year, were sworn in on Wednesday. The new lawmakers are from the ruling NCP and Rastriya Janata Party Nepal as the main opposition Nepali Congress and the Samajw adi Party Nepal couldn’t secure a single seat.
With the induction of the new members, the strength of the opposition has further weakened in the Upper House. The ruling party holds 50 seats, including the three nominated members, in the 59-strong Upper House. The Nepali Congress, which had 13 seats earlier, is limited to six as seven of its candidates lost their elections held three months ago. Similarly, the Samajwadi Party now has a single seat after it lost its another seat in the polls.
The Janata Party, however, retained its two positions. All the newly elected lawmakers will have six years to perform their job in the National Assembly.