Cabinet expansion unlikely at the moment

- SARIN GHIMIRE, Kathmandu

Jan 16, 2017-

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s plans to expand the Cabinet to bring in the Bijaya Gachhadar-led Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Loktrantrik along with a few fringe parties, and to add a few ministers from the Rastriya Prajatantra Party including its chairman Kamal Thapa, is looking increasing unlikely by the day.

Ruling coalition leaders in particular, with a view to mustering a two-thirds majority for passing the constitution amendment bill tabled in the House, are said to be in talks with the RPP and the MJF-L to expand the Cabinet.

But leaders within the ruling coalition of CPN (Maoist Centre) and Nepali Congress have different takes. According to Maoist leaders, the prime minister seems to be positive about giving RPP’s Thapa the portfolio of deputy prime minister and foreign minister. He is also said to be willing to give Gachhadar the portfolio of deputy PM and ministries of communication and local development. Dahal is learnt to be prepared also to hand a ministry each to the fringe forces Akhanda Nepal Party and Samajbadi Party.

However, leaders in charge of the ministries do not seem to be ready to leave their seats. While prime minister’s chief political adviser Chakrapani Khanal says the government will induct more ministers once Dahal returns from the UAE on Tuesday, Communications Minister Surendra Kumar Karki on Sunday claimed that the Cabinet would not be expanded at the moment. “We are rather in the process of bringing the CPN-UML on board the government,” the Maoist Centre leader told reporters in Morang.

Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba is also said to be unprepared for Cabinet expansion at the moment. He wants the RPP and MJF-L to support the constitution amendment bill registered in Parliament, assuring them of positions in the next government, which Deuba says will be formed in his leadership. The NC currently holds the Foreign Ministry.

The RPP too is not in a position to send more ministers to the Cabinet in exchange for voting for the amendment bill. RPP leader Dilanath Giri said his party had already decided officially to stand against the amendment bill in its present form. “Even Madhes-based parties want changes in the bill. People of Province 5 are against the government’s plan to split the state,” he said.

Giri accused the government of presenting the amendment bill unilaterally, without discussing the plans with his party, a coalition partner. “In such a case, we might as well consider recalling our ministers,” he said.

The MFJ-L also seems to be divided over joining the government. According to sources, though Gachhadar is receptive of the prospects, senior party leaders are against the idea.

MJF-L General Secretary Ramjanam Chaudhary said there was no point participating in the “government that would not last long”.

“There are already talks of a national consensus government. We may have a new government in about a month,” he said. “Why would we look like a pawn just to join the government for the sake of voting in favour of the bill? Plus, there is little meaning in passing the bill without the support of the UML.”

RPP’s Giri echoed Chaudhary’s calls for a new coalition. He said a solution to the stalemate could be the formation of an “election government”.

 

Hurdles for PM Dahal

-     Rastriya Prajatantra Party against constitution amendment bill

-     MJF-Loktantrik leaders say no point in joining government with a short tenure

-     At least two sitting ministers unwilling to relinquish their positions

-     Deuba plans to take the parties on board in the next government

Published: 16-01-2017 08:01

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