Dahal keen to rope in RSP as coalition partners ditherThe prime minister is ready to re-allocate the three ministries the RSP led earlier, says spokesperson.
All eyes are now on the Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) after it trounced the big political parties in two of the three constituencies in the recently-concluded bypolls. The party has given continuity to its support to the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government. With the RSP chair Rabi Lamichhane and Prime Minister Dahal holding two back-to-back talks, the probability of the RSP joining the government appears high.
After the by-elections, Dahal appeared keen to bring the RSP on board. Speaking at a function on Monday, Dahal claimed that the RSP won’t withdraw its support to the government. “We are discussing modalities of the RSP joining the government.”
At the event, Dahal urged Lamichhane to join the government and even went on to announce that he is ready to open any corruption-related file. (Fighting corruption is among the RSP’s top agendas.)
The RSP spokesperson and General Secretary Mukul Dhakal said the party will decide in a meeting scheduled for Friday whether to join the government or sit in the opposition.
Meanwhile, the party’s central committee members expressed their views on the pros and cons of both joining the government and sitting in the opposition at their meeting on Monday. “We had directed our members to analyse both the scenarios,” said Dhakal.
According to Dhakal, the prime minister is ready to re-allocate the three ministries the party led before it quit the government and also to revise the common minimum programme of the coalition government.
The central committee meeting also discussed the issue of strengthening party organisation, said party’s press coordinator Ganesh Karki. “As of now, 36 departments have been given shape. We have also created a timeline for building and expanding party organisation.”
The meeting also recommended the appointment of party chair Rabi Lamichhane as the parliamentary party leader, which was endorsed at the parliamentary party meeting held later in the day.
On Saturday, RSP vice chair Dol Prasad Aryal had submitted his resignation to the deputy parliamentary party leader Biraj Bhakta Shrestha. The resignation comes on the heels of Lamichhane’s entry to the House of Representatives from the bypoll in Chitwan-2. Lamichhane took the office of oath and secrecy on Friday.
A central committee meeting of the party on January 27 had picked Aryal as the parliamentary party leader after the Supreme Court annulled Lamichhane’s lawmaker status.
Lamichhane was deputy prime minister and home minister in the Dahal Cabinet, but he lost his position after the Supreme Court invalidated his lawmaker status. RSP leader Shisir Khanal was the minister of Education, Science and Technology, Dol Prasad Aryal led the Labour, Employment and Social Security ministry, while Dr Toshima Karki was the minister of state for Health and Population. They all resigned after the prime minister declined Lamichhane’s bid to rejoin the Home Ministry.
The central committee members had mixed views on joining the government, according to party leaders. As the coalition governments in Nepal are known to be unstable, some leaders are for joining the government if the ruling coalition can make a strong case for the ruling coalition’s stability and ability to deliver, said an RSP leader present at the meeting.
“Some leaders, on the other hand, argue that we should not join the government now, and that we should first learn to work effectively as lawmakers while simultaneously looking to build a strong organisation,” the leader added.
According to party insiders, some in the party are also in favour of appointing Swarnim Wagle, who won the bypolls on an RSP ticket from Tanahun-1, new finance minister.
Currently, the Maoist Centre’s senior vice-chair Narayan Kaji Shrestha leads the Home Ministry, Janata Samajbadi Party leader Ashok Rai is the minister for Education, while the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party leader Sharat Singh Bhandari heads the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security.
Likewise, Prakash Saran Mahat of the Nepali Congress holds the Finance portfolio.
With the ruling coalition divided on the possible Cabinet re-entry of the RSP, there are also doubts over the readiness of coalition partners to forgo the ministries they currently hold in order to accommodate the RSP.