Provincial governments in a flux as coalitions changeKarnali government splits ministry to accommodate aspirants from alliance partners.
Five months after the elections were held, Nepal’s provincial governments are still in the making as confusions remain amid changes in power equations.
While the provincial committees of political parties don’t always function independently, the change in coalition in Kathmandu has affected provincial administrations too, leaving many governments short of their full shape.
The central political leadership is so fixated on the outcome of Sunday’s by-election in three constituencies that many crucial decisions are pending.
Parties in the ruling coalition are even eyeing the leadership in the provinces, after they had taken a side in the by-polls. For example, Loktantrik Samajbadi Party and Nepali Congress have been demanding the leadership of Madhesh administration in exchange for their support to Upendra Yadav's candidacy. “Samajbadi has been given the Vice President and the ruling coalition has backed Upendra Yadav’s candidacy in Bara-2. It's our turn in Madhesh,” Keshav Jha, a Loktantrik Samajbadi leader, told the Post a week ago.
Provincial leaders of political parties and incumbent chief ministers have been waiting for signals from their central leaders to lead the provincial government or extend the Cabinet after the by-polls. The Nepali Congress Madhesh provincial chapter wants to lead the government as the party is strongest in the coalition, according to Nitesh Gupta, publicity head of the party’s Madhesh chapter.
Speaking at the Gandaki provincial assembly on Saturday, UML lawmaker Lil Bahadur Thapa Magar said the power game at the centre has impacted the provinces too, and the parties in the provinces have been changing sides too often, leading to instability.
“Who will become the chief minister tomorrow? Who will become even tonight? And who will the day after tomorrow? If this situation continues, all the 60 provincial lawmakers will become the ministers one day,” he said.
Ministerial aspirations in the provinces have affected government formation. In Karnali, the provincial government took full shape after four ministers assumed their offices on Thursday. Three ministers from Nepali Congress joined the provincial government, and one state minister of the Maoist Centre was promoted to minister. A meeting of the provincial Council of Ministers on Tuesday decided to split the Physical Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Ministry into Water Resources and Energy Development ministries.
The Maoist Centre and the CPN-UML had decided to reduce the number of ministries to seven but there were eight ministers, including one minister of state in the provincial government. In the Karnali provincial assembly, Nepali Congress has 14 lawmakers, the Maoist Centre has 13, the UML 10 and the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, CPN (Unified Socialist) and Independents have one member each.
Chief minister of Gandaki Khagaraj Adhikari, a UML leader, lost the confidence vote in the provincial assembly on Saturday. He had been leading a minority government after the Maoist Centre pulled out its support to the government on March 24. In Gandaki, Nepali Congress has 27 provincial lawmakers, the UML has 22, Maoist Centre eight, Rastriya Prajatantra Party two and CPN (Unified Socialist) has one.
The Congress has been staking its claim to lead the Gandaki government and Surendra Pandey from the party is in line to be the chief minister. Maoist Centre’s Hari Bahadur Chuman is also an aspirant for the post.
In Bagmati Province, the largest party, Congress, has been claiming six ministerial posts. As two of its ministers joined the provincial government on Saturday, the party has staked its claim for four more. Among the 11 ministries, five are vacant, and the Unified Socialist has been claiming two more. The Congress has 37 provincial assembly members, UML 27, Maoist Centre 21, Rastriya Prajatantra Party 13, Unified Socialist seven, Nepal Majdoor Kisan Party three and Hamro Nepali Party two.
The UML is leading a minority government in Lumbini, after the Maoist Centre and Janamat Party withdrew their support on March 26. The parties have demanded that Chief Minister Leela Giri, a UML leader, should step down. The Congress has been staking its claim to lead the government.
Giri is planning to take the vote of confidence on April 24. The provincial assembly is scheduled to meet after Sunday’s by-election. The ninth meeting of the first session of the Lumbini provincial assembly is scheduled for April 24, 11 AM, the provincial assembly secretariat said in a statement.
The UML has 29 lawmakers, Nepali Congress 27, Maoist Centre nine and Rastriya Prajatantra Party four in Lumbini Assembly. The Janamat Party, the Janata Samajbadi Party, and the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party have three members each while independents number three too.
In Koshi Province, the coalition partners Maoist Centre and Janata Samajbadi, who have supported the UML-led government so far, are in a dilemma. There is a tie between the UML-Rastriya Prajatantra Party alliance and the ruling alliance at 46 assembly members each. The UML has 40 provincial lawmakers, Rastriya Prajatantra Party six, Nepali Congress 29, Maoist Centre 13, and Unified Socialist four in Koshi.
Sudurpaschim Chief Minister Kamal Bahadur Shah of the Nepali Congress has claimed that the provincial government will take full shape only after a few days of the by-elections.
Speaking at a function in Baitadi, Shah said, “As a new coalition government has been formed at the Centre, provincial governments will be similarly formed. The provincial governments will be expanded as per the central equation, so the Sudurpaschim government will take full shape after the by-polls,” he said. Four ministries in the Sudurpaschim government remain vacant, and the expansion appears challenging for Shah as the coalition partners stick to their guns.
In the province, Nepali Congress has 19 assembly lawmakers, UML 11, Maoist Centre 10, Rastriya Prajatantra Party one, Unified Socialist four, Nagarik Unmukti Party seven and Independents one.
In Madhesh, the Congress, the Loktantrik Samajbadi and the Janamat parties are eyeing the chief ministerial post. They have been claiming that the leadership and composition of the provincial government will change once the by-elections are held. Saroj Kumar Yadav of Janata Samajbadi leads the provincial government.
In Janakpur, UML has 23 assembly members, Congress 22, Janata Samajbadi 16, Janamat 13, Loktantrik Samajbadi nine, Maoist Centre eight, Unified Socialist seven, Independents six and Rastriya Prajatantra Party, Sanghiya Samajbadi Party, and Nagarik Unmukti Party one each.