Oli says he consulted Deuba on nominations, but Congress calls it a lie

  • Opposition leaders say the prime minister decided to call a meeting even after Sher Bahadur Deuba proposed an alternative date
- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

Apr 1, 2019-

The government and Nepali Congress appear sharply divided over recent nominations by the Constitutional Council, triggering a fresh debate over whether the main opposition was taken into confidence while making several appointments.

At a time when constitutional and legal experts have taken exception to government’s unilateral decision to nominate officials in the constitutional bodies, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli added a twist in the tale, saying Sher Bahadur Deuba, the leader of Nepali Congress, was consulted before recommending an incumbent secretary for the post of chief election commissioner.

A meeting of the Constitutional Council on March 25 decided to recommend Dinesh Thapaliya, secretary at the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration, for the post of chief election commissioner. The meeting was not attended by Deuba.

As per the constitutional provisions, the leader of the main opposition is one of the members in the six-member Constitutional Council, headed by the prime minister.

Oli on Sunday told reporters in Biratnagar that the decision to recommend Thapaliya was taken in agreement with Deuba.

“The government has not taken any unilateral decision while recommending Thapaliya as chief election commissioner. I had discussed with Deuba prior to making recommendation,” Oli told reporters.

But Deuba’s party, Nepali Congress, rejected the prime minister’s claim.

Nepali Congress spokesperson Bishwa Prakash Sharma and Deuba’s close aide, Bhanu Deuba, told the Post in separate interviews on Sunday that their leader’s consent was never sought before recommending Thapaliya as the chief election commissioner.

“If Deuba’s consent had been taken, then why did the prime minister not wait for a couple of days to hold the meeting of the Constitutional Council?” said Sharma.

When the meeting of the council was called for March 25 and Deuba was informed about the meeting, Deuba had telephoned—and even written to—Oli that he would not be able to attend the meeting because he was occupied in a party meeting, said Bhanu Deuba. “The party president [Sher Bahadur Deuba] had even proposed the meeting date for March 26. But Oli went ahead with the meeting,” he said.

The Congress party has even decided to boycott the parliamentary hearing of Thapaliya, who is widely seen as a close confidante to Oli.

Earlier this year, Deuba was also absent from a Constitutional Council meeting that recommended the names for five constitutional bodies.

The council’s decisions, made one after another in the absence of the leader of the main opposition, have sparked concerns over whether the incumbent government, which has a comfortable majority in Parliament, is trying to rule with majoritarianism, ignoring democratic norms, rule of law and constitutionalism.

“The Nepali Congress can even move the court against such unilateral decisions. But we did not because we want to nurture democratic culture,” said Sharma. “We have rather decided to follow democratic process and urged the government not to move ahead with the parliamentary hearing.”

Asked whether the Nepali Congress’ objection to the council’s decision was a bargaining chip, Sharma said the main opposition has not claimed any share in any of the constitutional bodies as claimed by Oli.

On January 20, after the Constitutional Council nominated chairpersons for the five commissions in the absence of the leader of the opposition, all four lawmakers from the Nepali Congress who are in the Parliamentary Hearing Committee had boycotted the hearing process.

But the 15-member hearing committee, in which the ruling party controls majority, had endorsed all but one name despite the main opposition boycotting the hearing.

The committee did not take any decision on one nominee, Samim Miya Ansari, who had run into controversy, and he was appointed as the chair of the Muslim Commission automatically due to a legal provision.

Published: 01-04-2019 07:34

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