An undercurrent of discontent in RSP‘Party chair showed [my Facebook] post and a news item in Kantipur as the basis for taking action against me,’ says sacked lawmaker Dhaka Kumar Shrestha.
The Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) and its leaders, including its chair and parliamentarians, have been courting controversies, one after another, in under a year of the party's formation.
Most recently, the RSP expelled its lawmaker Dhaka Kumar Shrestha from the party on Wednesday over a leaked audio in which a voice, allegedly Shrestha’s, demands Rs20 million from another person, the controversial medical manager Durga Prasai, so that Shrestha can become health minister in the federal government.
Scrapping the general membership of Shrestha, the party decided to replace him with Bindabasini Kansakar as the lawmaker. On Thursday, the party formally informed the parliament secretariat about Shrestha’s removal from the party. Meanwhile, Shrestha continues to maintain that he is still an RSP lawmaker.
The decision to pick Kansakar as Shrestha’s replacement has miffed many party leaders who say Kansakar’s pick is against the candidate nomination rule. Some who spoke in the central committee meeting on Wednesday were of the view that the replacement should be done in line with a defined procedure.
Megh Ale, who is also a central committee member, said he had also raised a similar concern at the meeting saying that he should have been the one to be chosen as a parliamentarian under the proportional representation system. He, however, said it was “an internal matter of the party” and as such not something to fuss over publicly.
After the party took severe action against him, Shrestha said the party has done him injustice by not giving him a chance to establish his innocence and that he now plans to go to the court. “The 72 hours given to me weren’t enough. At least they could have given me a week or until the by-election. I have said time and again that the voice in the tape isn’t mine and that I will prove my innocence. They termed me guilty based on a screenshot of a Facebook post which stated that if something happens to me, I would expose everyone, which I had not written,” Shrestha told the Post.
“Party chair showed the post and a news item in Kantipur as the basis for taking action against me. I said there were several news stories against him too but then we tried to save his face… But Rabi Sir did not listen.”
Many analysts now say the party is proving to be no different from the more established ones.
Within a couple of months of emerging as the fourth-largest party in the lower house from the November polls, two of its lawmakers have already lost their parliamentary positions. Earlier, on January 28, the Supreme Court annulled the lawmaker status of party chair Rabi Lamichhane, saying that the citizenship certificate he had submitted to contest the major polls was invalid. The Election Commission is holding bypolls in Lamichhane’s seat because he won the direct election from Chitwan-2 constituency.
Party leaders were surprised by the way Lamichhane presented himself at a press meet in February where he blamed media houses for his loss of deputy prime minister and home minister positions. Some party leaders questioned the choice of his words in his over an hour-long diatribe.
Lamichhane has now courted another controversy. A news report published by Kantipur states that Lamichhane, when he was the Home Minister, had issued for a tender with a seven-day deadline, in violation of the existing procurement laws. Suspiciously, only one company had submitted a bid and the ministry awarded the contract to the same.
In response to the news report, Lamichhane issued a statement on Thursday, stating that the Working Procedure had already been prepared by the Ministry before he took office as Home Minister and that it was presented to him for approval.
“It was approved, coincidentally, after I took office. The work, which was already underway, would have been approved by any minister,” Lamichhane said in the statement.
Party leaders said they do not generally meet and formally discuss issues before responding in the event of public controversies. RSP’s central committee member and press coordinator Ganesh Karki as well as and party joint general secretary Kabindra Burlakoti confirmed that no formal meeting was called to discuss the issue on which Lamichhane had issued clarification on Thursday.
Burlakoti, however, said informal discussions are generally held among key party leaders in such cases. “The response came after informal discussions among party leaders,” he added.
Some party insiders have been saying that the party is person-centric and the party chair dominates decision-making. Also, according to some party leaders, many leaders hesitate to speak up on vital issues.
“Many leaders in the party do not speak up unless an issue involves them directly, even if they believe the party is going against its own defined procedures. They don’t want to create trouble for party leadership,” said a central committee member.