Divisions in ruling party manifest in appointment of National Assembly general secretaryThe appointment by House Speaker Agni Sapkota, a former Maoist, has been opposed by National Assembly Chair Ganesh Timilsina, an Oli appointee.
The ruling Nepal Communist Party which has long been embroiled in factional infighting is bracing for yet another conflict—this time over the appointment of the general secretary in the federal parliament.
In a unilateral move, House Speaker Agni Sapkota on Sunday elevated Gopal Nath Yogi, a secretary at the Parliament Secretariat, to officiating general secretary of the federal parliament after Manohar Prasad Bhattarai retired after the expiration of his second on Friday.
Though factional feuds have always been a defining characteristic of the ruling party, it was during Sapkota’s appointment that the quarrel became most visible. Last month, when the party Secretariat decided to send Bamdev Gautam to the National Assembly, it clearly divided the party into two camps led by the two chairs, KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
Now, the move by Sapkota, a former Maoist leader, which has been opposed by National Assembly Chair Ganesh Timilsina, is likely to once again divide the party along UML and Maoist lines. Oli had picked Timilsina for the National Assembly chair’s post and Timilsina has already expressed discontent at Sapkota’s decision to appoint Yogi.
“I was not consulted for the appointment of the general secretary of the federal parliament,” Timilsina told the Post. “I came to know about [Yogi’s] appointment through the media. I had asked the Speaker to make a joint decision.”
As per the existing provisions, the general secretary of the federal parliament has to be appointed in agreement between the Lower House Speaker and the National Assembly chair.
Subas Nembang, deputy leader of the ruling party’s Parliamentary Party and a former Speaker, has also expressed his displeasure at Sapkota’s unilateral decision.
“The Speaker’s move is legally inappropriate,” Nembang told reporters at his office on Monday.
According to Nembang, appointing a person who is under 45 years of age as the general secretary of the federal parliament could set a wrong precedent.
“There are already two other secretaries who meet the criteria for the post,” he said.
Speaker Sapkota, on the other hand, maintained that he took the decision in consultation with the National Assembly chair.
“There should not be any problem,” Sapkota told reporters at his office on Monday. “But should any problem arise, I am ready to sort it out through dialogue.”
The general secretary of the federal parliament needs to be selected in consensus with the heads of the lower and upper houses but also requires the buy-in of political parties.
“We need to take the consent of political leaders,” Timilsina said, according to a member of his secretariat who asked to remain anonymous. “Only after consent from party leaders, can we recommend a candidate for the post of general secretary to the President for approval.”
A secretary at the federal parliament who spoke on condition of anonymity described the Speaker’s unilateral move as a serious issue.
“I don’t know whether the ongoing conflict over the appointment of the officiating general secretary has anything to do with the ruling party’s internal conflict,” the secretary told the Post. “But it is quite concerning that existing provisions that demand consultation with the National Assembly chair were ignored.”
The general secretary of the federal parliament resembles the chief secretary of the government and has to look into all the managerial works of the federal parliament.
“Things could escalate further if the heads of the two houses fail to work in tandem. They need to resolve the issue through dialogue,” said Khimlal Bhattarai, the ruling party’s chief whip in the National Assembly. “There was clearly a lack of consultation. It needs to be addressed.”