Experts question if caretaker prime minister can reshuffle the CabinetThe decision is against the spirit of constitutional and political cultures, observers argue.
Constitutional affairs experts have questioned Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s decision to reshuffle his Cabinet to induct eight ministers, five of them former Maoist leaders, and change the portfolio of five of his ministers.
While critics say the Oli government has been reduced to a care-taker status and the prime minister can’t reshuffle his Cabinet, supporters say he has every right to do so.
“The Oli government has been reduced to a caretaker status and a prime minister of such a government does have the moral, political and constitutional authority to reshuffle his Cabinet,” senior advocate Chandra Kanta Gyawali, an expert of constitutional affairs, told the Post.
Five days after the dissolution of the House of Representatives and the subsequent resignation of seven ministers, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Friday inducted eight ministers into his Cabinet, appointed a state minister, changed six ministers' portfolios and sacked a minster and a minister of state.
Senior advocate Bipin Adhikari also criticised the move. “The decision to expand the Cabinet of a caretaker government is against the spirit of the political and constitutional culture.”
The newly appointed ministers are: Top Bahadur Rayamajhi (Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation) Mani Thapa ( Ministry of Water Supply), Prabhu Sah (Ministry of Urban Development), Gauri Shankar Chaudhary (Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security)
And Dawa Lama (Ministry of Youth and Sports) from among the former Maoists and Prem Ale (Minister for Forest and Environment), Ganesh Thagunna (Minister for Federal Affairs and General Administration), Juli Kumari Mahato (Minister for Women, Children and Senior Citizens) and Bimala Biswokarma (Minister of State for Industry, Commerce and Supplies).
Oli’s trusted lieutenant and deputy parliamentary party leader Subas Chandra Nembang rejected criticism levelled against Oli for exercising his authority. “Who said the prime minister cannot reshuffle his Cabinet ?” said Nembang. “In the US, even President Trump whose government has turned into a lame-duck is taking major and important decisions.”
Oli’s picks for ministerial berths seem to be targeted at rewarding members of his party for their loyalty, after seven members of his Cabinet stepped down recently.
At a time when the ruling party has virtually split into two factions, Prime Minister Oli was under pressure to accommodate some former Maoist leaders in his camp so that he could show the people that the majority of members of the Nepal Communist Party are with him, leaders close to Oli said.
Prabhu Sah, who had earlier opposed Oli’s move to dissolve the House, had joined the Dahal-Nepal camp and participated in the group’s central working committee meeting until Wednesday. But as soon as former prime minister Madhav Nepal was elected chair of the faction, Sah had objected to it and. Both Nepal and Sah have their constituencies in Rautahat and they don’t share good relations, a central committee member said. Oli tapped into his dissatisfaction and offered him a post in his Cabinet, a ruling party leader said.
Former Maoist leaders and Standing Committee members Rayamajhi and Thapa were lobbying in favour of Prime Minister Oli since the relation between Oli and Dahal turned sour.
Minister for Sports and Youth Jagat Bishwokarma and Minister of State for Industry, Commerce and Supplies, Moti Dugar have been left out of the reshuffle.
Oli has also reshuffled the portfolios of existing ministers—Health Minister Bhanubhakta Dhakal has now been given the tourism portfolio Minister for Federal Affairs and General Administration Hridayesh Tripathi is now the new Health Minister. Similarly, Minister for Women, Children and Senior Citizens Minister Lilanath Shrestha takes charge of the Ministry of Law. Shiva Maya Tumbahangphe, the erstwhile law minister, will now oversee the Ministry of Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation.
Minister for Land Reforms, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation Minister has been given the responsibility of the Agriculture Ministry and Urban Development Minister Krishna Gopal Shrestha will now lead the Education and Science Ministry.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet meeting, which convened after the new ministers took their oath of office on Friday, recommended President Bidhya Devi Bhandari to summon the regular session of the Upper House from January 1, according to a minister.