Dahal in a fix amid competing demands by coalition membersDahal in a fix amid competing demands by coalition members
Ahead of taking a vote of confidence, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal had told reporters that he would conclude the cabinet expansion by March 24. But the deadline set by the prime minister expired on Friday and if the ruling party leaders are to be believed, the Cabinet expansion is unlikely to be completed before next Tuesday.
Party leaders in the ruling coalition say there is a dispute among the parties over the number of ministries each one wants to lead. As well, there are issues related to a package deal among the parties, including the formation of governments in the provinces, besides preparation of a common minimum programme of the ruling alliance.
“On Friday evening too, Prime Minister Dahal called a meeting of the top leaders of the ruling parties for the allocation of the ministries which would get divided among the ruling parties. This is a work in progress and there are some positive developments, but it will take one or two days for a breakthrough,” said an aide to the prime minister.
Earlier, it used to take 10–15 days for Cabinet expansion by the prime minister after taking the vote of confidence. But this time, it won’t take that long,” said the Nepali Congress Vice President Purna Bahadur Khadka, a key negotiator from the party in the power sharing deal.
Khadka will probably lead the party in the government and is looking for the portfolio of deputy prime minister and minister for finance. Party spokesman Prakash Sharan Mahat is also a top contender for the finance minister’s job.
Though the Nepali Congress is eyeing as many as 10 ministries in the Cabinet, Dahal has already communicated to the Nepali Congress leaders that it would impossible for him to give 10 ministries to the Nepali Congress alone as he has to accommodate other parties as well that voted for him during the floor test on March 20.
“We are still in discussions. It will take some more time, the cabinet expansion is unlikely to be completed any sooner than 4-5 days,” Khadka said.
From the Nepali Congress, besides Khadka and Mahat, three other senior leaders—Dr Shekhar Koirala, Bimalendra Nidhi and Prakash Man Singh—have expressed their intent to lead their party in the Dahal-led coalition government.
Party Vice-president Dhan Raj Gurung, assistant general secretaries Kishor Singh Rathore, Badri Pandey and Jeevan Pariyar, have also shown their interests in joining the government. Other lawmakers, namely NP Sawad, Dipak Khadka, Sita Gurung, Mohan Bahadur Basnet, Dhan Raj Gurung, Pradip Poudel, Uday Sumsher Rana, Binod Chaudary, Dig Bahadur Limbu, Tejulal Chaudhary, Ajay Kumar Chaurasiya, Ramesh Rijal, Arjun Narsingh KC too, want to join the government. Out of the eight Cabinet seats, Deuba has agreed to give two to the rival Shekhar Koirala-Gagan Thapa team, but Shekhar has named three leaders—party vice president Gurung, and Limbu and Chaudhary—as his picks.
Meanwhile, the CPN (Unified Socialist) is demanding more than three ministerial portfolios and a seat in the upcoming by-elections, which are being held in Tanahun, Bara and Chitwan on April 23.
“We won’t join the government if we are not given three ministries,” senior party leader Jhalanath Khanal said.
In order to fix the number of ministries to be led by the ruling parties, Prime Minister Dahal has been holding consultations every day with top leaders of the ruling parties, but has failed to reach a conclusion yet.
The Unified Socialist is also staking its claim to either the Ministry of Home Affairs or the Ministry of Finance which both the CPN (Maoist Centre) and Nepali Congress want for themselves.
“We have already sacrificed a lot in the name of alliance and coalition, so we have demanded at least one major ministry,” said a senior Unified Socialist leader.
Since the deadline set by the prime minister for Cabinet expansion expired on Friday, Haribol Gajurel, chief political adviser to the prime minister said there must be some positive development and breakthrough within a day or two.
Some ruling party leaders said that since the number of parties supporting Dahal have increased, there is a likelihood that not all parties would get ministries that they have staked their claims to.
“We have staked our claims to more than three ministries, but the way new parties have supported the government and expressed their intent to join the government, we might reduce our demand to two ministries,” senior Janata Samajbadi Party leader, Raj Kishor Yadav said. “We are expecting the cabinet expansion to be completed within two to three days.”