Congress factional dispute delays Cabinet expansionParty’s rival faction led by Shekhar Koirala unwilling to settle for anything less than three ministries for its members.
With the largest party in the ruling coalition, the Nepali Congress, unable to nominate its four ministerial candidates, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has been struggling to give full shape to the Cabinet. The last time the prime minister expanded the cabinet was on Friday. The coalition has allocated eight ministries to the Congress.
Party president Sher Bahadur Deuba is waiting for the Shekhar Koirala-Gagan Thapa faction to recommend its nominees, hence the delay in Cabinet expansion, a leader of the Deuba camp told the Post. All four ministers earlier nominated by the Congress represent the party’s Deuba faction.
The party’s rival faction has been insisting on getting three seats in the Cabinet but Deuba has so far remained reluctant to heed the demand.
Koirala, meanwhile, told the Post on Thursday that his faction will not compromise on the demand. “There is no such rush to recommend names,” he said, adding that his group had not picked nominees until Thursday evening.
According to Congress leader Ram Hari Khatiwada, Deuba is prepared to allocate two ministers and one minister of state to the Koirala camp.
Earlier, the party’s two general secretaries—Gagan Thapa and Bishwa Prakash Sharma— had nominated lawmaker Pradip Poudel for a ministerial role, but Deuba said he would be given a minister of state post. As a result, Poudel is unlikely to join the government, a leader from the Koirala faction told the Post.
Deuba is considering nominating Mohan Basnet and NP Sawad for ministerial roles. According to party sources, Sawad is set to become the next foreign minister.
A central working committee member said, the Cabinet expansion could be postponed at least until the April 23 by-elections, if misunderstanding continued between the two Congress factions. “And if the dispute continues it will send the wrong signal.”
Koirala’s two favourites for ministerial posts are party vice-president Dhanraj Gurung and leader Dig Bahadur Limbu, but three other leaders from the camp—joint general secretaries Badri Pandey and Jeevan Pariyar and Teju Lal Chaudhary—say allocation of two Cabinet positions for them is not enough and have been insisting on a third.
Earlier the Congress’ work execution committee had decided that ministerial nominees would be selected on the basis of inclusiveness, provincial representation, contribution to the party, and merit.
Prime Minister Dahal’s political advisor Haribol Gajurel said the Cabinet will be expanded soon after the Congress recommends its picks.
As per the power-sharing agreement, the Congress will get foreign affairs; law, justice, and parliamentary affairs; water supply; forest and environment; and youth and sports ministries.
According to Congress chief whip Ramesh Lekhak the party is discussing nominating the remaining ministers to Dahal within two or three days.