Shakya’s minority government in Bagmati appoints new ministersThe 56-member single largest party CPN-UML is now reduced to 43 members in the province, and Shakya needs 12 members to achieve a majority.
Three weeks after her appointment, Chief Minister of Bagmati Province Asta Laxmi Shakya on Wednesday expanded her Cabinet by appointing six ministers and four ministers of state even after her government was reduced to a minority after the split in the CPN-UML.
In the provincial assembly, the 56-member single largest party CPN-UML now has 43 members. Shakya needs 12 members to achieve a majority. Party leaders said securing a majority in the assembly is near impossible for her so her government will last until the impending confidence vote.
“After siding with KP Oli, I think Shakya too has started doing the same things that Oli had done to stay in power,” said Munu Sigdel, a provincial assembly member elected on CPN-UML ticket who recently defected to Madhav Nepal’s CPN (Unified Socialist).
Sigdel said everyone knows Shakya became chief minister on the day UML dissident leaders applied for a new party.
“She needs to go for a floor test in a week but she left everyone surprised by expanding her Cabinet,” Sigdel told the Post. “After holding a meeting of our Parliamentary Party on Friday, we will begin preparations to form a new government.”
According to leaders, the CPN (Unified Socialist), through the Parliamentary Party meeting, will inform the assembly that it does not support the Shakya government.
Leaders of the ruling party, however, claimed that the countdown of the government begins only after a formal announcement of the party split by the assembly.
“This Cabinet expansion is a part of constitutional obligation as the ministries cannot remain vacant for long,” said Rachana Khadka, newly-appointed minister for financial affairs and planning. “Until now the UML is the single-largest party with 56 seats in the assembly. Once the notice of the party split arrives, we will plan our actions in line with constitutional provisions.”
With Wednesday’s expansion, Shakya’s Cabinet has 12 members after she decided to split the Health Ministry from the Health and Social Development Ministry. The new ministry was created to focus on Covid-19 response properly, she said.
One of her newly-appointed ministers said politics is a game of uncertainties as the longevity of the five-party alliance at the centre itself is uncertain given the differences among the constituent parties over the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact. One of the constituents, the Rastriya Janamorcha, has already decided to launch a struggle against the US compact.
“Anything can happen in politics,” said Minister Khadka. “Let’s see how things will unfold in the next one month.”
When Shakya was appointed chief minister on August 18, she had appointed Keshav Raj Pande as minister for internal affairs and law and Krishna Prasad Khanal as health and social development minister, respectively.
Minister for Social Development Khanal resigned from his post on September 1, a day after he decided to defect to the CPN (Unified Socialist).
“Chief Minister Shakya’s government was formed as per Article 168(1) and its legal status has not yet changed. So she expanded her Cabinet,” said Rameshwar Phuyal, a UML member of the provincial assembly. “The government leadership is ready to face the consequences of the confidence vote.”
Shakya has appointed Pande as minister for physical planning while Ajay Kranti Shakya has been appointed minister for internal affairs and law. Rachana Khadka has been appointed minister for financial affairs and planning, Bijay Subedi as minister for social development, Shanti Prasad Poudel as minister for industry, tourism and environment, Pradip Kumar Katuwal Chhetri as minister for health, and Chandra Lama has been appointed minister for land management, agriculture and cooperation.
She has appointed Jeevan Khadka, Saraswati Bati, Juneli Shrestha and Badri Mainali as ministers of state for physical infrastructure development; industry; social development and land management; agriculture and cooperatives, respectively.
In Province 1 also, Chief Minister Bhim Acharya has been struggling to remain in power after 10 of the UML assembly members defected to the CPN (Unified Socialist).