Seniors opting out citing Lamichhane’s high Cabinet rankThe coalition is forming a mechanism comprising party chiefs to finalise power sharing and oversee government.
On Monday, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal formed an eight-member Cabinet with four ministers from the UML, and one each from the Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) and the Janamat Party. But he has failed to not only expand his Cabinet but also to fix portfolios of the four remaining ministers.
The new Cabinet, which is yet to get full shape, has three deputy prime ministers—Bishnu Poudel from the UML, Narayan Kaji Shrestha from the Maoist Centre and Rabi Lamichhane from the RSP.
But as negotiations among coalition leaders on a package deal have so far been inconclusive, the four ministers are yet to get their portfolios.
“As there have been no conclusive talks with coalition partners, fixing the portfolios and appointing new ministers may take some time,” said Ramesh Malla, chief personal secretary to Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
A scheduled meeting among alliance partners could not take place on Monday after UML chair KP Sharma Oli left for Jhapa.
UML Deputy General Secretary Pradeep Gyawali said a mechanism comprising chiefs of the ruling parties is being formed to support the government. “The mechanism will finalise sharing of all constitutional positions besides ministerial portfolios,” Gyawali told the Post. “Discussions on these will be held soon.”
In the meantime, some senior leaders of major parties in the new coalition have appeared hesitant to join the Dahal-led government citing the entry of Lamichhane as deputy prime minister and home minister. One such senior leader is Barshaman Pun, deputy general secretary of the Maoist Centre, who had played a key role in Dahal’s elevation to the prime ministerial position by acting as his chief negotiator with the UML.
“Pun has decided to stay out of the government and focus instead on party-building as there is no chance for him to become a deputy prime minister,” said Dayanidhi Bhatta, press coordinator to leader Pun. “How can a three-time minister work under his juniors in the government?”
But some leaders like Shakti Basnet, another deputy general secretary of the Maoist Center, are as yet undecided about joining the government. Basnet, who was home minister earlier, said no specific discussion has been held in the party to that effect.
According to some leaders involved in inter-party negotiations, the UML has claimed 10 ministries; the Maoist Centre seven; the NSP, the Janata Samajbadi Party and Rastriya Prajatantra Party three each; the Nagarik Unmukti Party and the Janamat Party two each. However, as of now the Nagarik Unmukti Party and the RPP have decided to support the government from outside. Unmukti Party leaders have said they will join the government only after the party’s demands are met. As a major condition for joining the government, the party has demanded the release from jail of its leader Resham Chaudhary, who was convicted in the 2015 Tikapur killings.
The RPP has yet to decide and the party leadership is reportedly in a fix as all of its senior leaders want to join the government.
“A meeting of our party’s central work execution committee tomorrow [Wednesday] will decide on whether to join the government,” Mohan Shrestha, spokesperson of the party, told the Post. “We will get into details only after that.”
Some aspirants for ministers from the Maoist Centre include Rekha Sharma [Dang-2]; Sudan Kiranti [Bhojpur]; Aman Lal Modi [Morang-4]; Mahindra Raya Yadav [Sarlahi-2], Ranendra Baraili; Ganga Karki [Dolakha]; Suryaman Dong [Kavre-1] and Hit Bahadur Tamang [Nuwakot-1].
Yadav, a leader of the Nepal Samajbadi Party, contested polls on the Maoist Centre’s election symbol. Sharma, the only female candidate from the Maoist Center to win a federal seat under the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system in the November polls, is also a strong contender for minister.
Likewise, there are many aspirants in the UML and the party, according to insiders, would pick ministers only from among those lawmakers who were directly-elected to parliament twice.
Some UML aspirants for ministerial positions are Prithvi Subba Gurung, Krishna Gopal Shrestha, Bhim Acharya, Yogesh Bhattarai, Gokarna Bista, Basanta Nembang, Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, Bidya Bhattarai, Bhagawati Chaudhary, Raghubir Mahaseth, Devraj Ghimire, Padam Giri, and Ishwari Bishwakarma Rijal (from Dalit community).
However, according to a UML politburo member, Gurung, Shrestha, Acharya, Bhattarai, Bista, Nembang and Rayamajhi are reluctant to join the government arguing that they do not want to serve as junior to a political novice like Lamichhane, who is a deputy prime minister.
The fourth largest party in parliament, the RSP, also has many ministerial aspirants. The party is reportedly getting three ministerial berths. According to sources, top leaders are considering picking an RSP leader as deputy speaker. “In that case, leaders may pick RSP lawmaker Shobita Gautam as the deputy commander of the House given her legal background,” said a leader privy to the development.
Even the three independent candidates—Prabhu Sah, Kiran Kumar Sah and Amresh Kumar Singh— aspire to be ministers.
After Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Lamichhane refused to work as government spokesperson, Prime Minister Dahal on Monday assigned the duty to another Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bishnu Poudel.
The UML has already appointed Poudel as deputy prime minister and finance minister, as well as Jwala Kumari Sah of Bara, Damodar Bhandari of Baitadi, and Rajendra Kumar Rai of Dhankuta as ministers without portfolio.
On Tuesday, President Bidya Devi Bhandari appointed advocate Dinmani Pokharel as the new Attorney General. Pokhrel will take oath of office and secrecy from the President on Wednesday.