Seeds of discord in Unified Socialist just as ministers changeParty is clearly in crisis with Madhav Nepal seeking to put the house in order.
Ministers from the CPN (Unified Socialist) were finally replaced by a new set of leaders on Sunday, three weeks after the party took a decision to that effect. By the time the Cabinet reshuffle was announced, the nine-month-old Unified Socialist’s crisis had become apparent.
Issuing a statement on Sunday evening, the President’s Office said the Cabinet was reshuffled on the recommendation of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba.
With the reshuffle, Jeevan Ram Shrestha has been appointed minister for tourism, culture and civil aviation in place of Prem Ale; Metmani Chaudhary as minister for urban development in place of Ram Kumari Jhakri, Sher Bahadur Kunwar as minister for labour, employment and social security in place of Krishna Kumar Shrestha, and Bhawani Prasad Khapung as minister for health and population. Hira Chandra KC has been appointed as minister of state for health and population in place of Khapung.
The newly appointed ministers are yet to take the oath of office and secrecy.
Bhesh Raj Adhikari, chief personal secretary to the President, said the newly appointed ministers will be administered the oath of office and secrecy in the first hour on Monday.
Though a Cabinet reshuffle is considered a routine process, the change of ministers on Sunday comes with an indication that the Unified Socialist is going through a rough patch. The party’s Secretariat meeting on June 5 had decided to recall the ministers so as to send a new set of leaders to replace them.
But the ministers defied the party orders. They, along with six other lawmakers, even submitted a memorandum on Friday to party chair Madhav Nepal expressing their displeasure over the decision, saying recalling ministers at a time when discussions were ongoing on the budget was uncalled for. The 10 lawmakers also demanded a meeting of the Parliamentary Party.
But on Saturday, six lawmakers along with Ale withdrew their demand. On Sunday, Ale even submitted a letter to chair Nepal committing to stepping down whenever the party wanted him to do so.
On Sunday evening, Ale and Jhakri had called separate pressers and informed the media about their works during their eight months and 20 days in office.
Some in the Unified Socialist believe that the party’s June 5 decision to replace ministers was not implemented largely because of Prime Minister Deuba’s reluctance at the behest of the CPN (Maoist Centre) chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
The Maoist Centre and the Unified Socialist are key coalition partners of Deuba.
Non-implementation of the party’s decision regarding changing the ministers had put Nepal on the backfoot.
Jagannath Khatiwada, spokesperson for the Unified Socialist, said the party’s decision to change the ministers was not implemented just because Dahal was putting pressure on Deuba.
According to him, changing ministers could put pressure on Dahal as well to recall his party’s ministers.
Now the party’s decision has been implemented, but insiders and observers say not everything is hunky-dory in the Unified Socialist. The party is facing a tough time. It is not happy with the current coalition but it cannot walk out of it either. Meanwhile, senior leader Jhala Nath Khanal has been calling for a “broader left alliance,” to which party chair Nepal does not seem ready.
Party’s general secretary Beduram Bhusal said the crisis arose after the four ministers refused to abide by the Standing Committee decision.
Political observers say since the Unified Socialist does not have any clear ideological base, its leadership is left with no option to sustain the party than promising one thing or the other to its leaders.
“To manage the leaders, they were promised ministerial positions,” said Hari Roka, a political commentator. “Parties that lack ideological ground, political norms and values do what the Unified Socialist has done.”
Madhav Nepal had formed the Unified Socialist in August last year by splitting from the CPN-UML after a long struggle against UML chair KP Sharma Oli.
Roka said the [Cabinet] reshuffle may have some impact on the coalition partners, as there are too many aspirants seeking ministerial berths.
“No one wants to serve [the people]; they just want to become ministers,” said Roka.