Deuba braces for berth pangs as he takes office

  • Dispute arises over ministerial portfolio allocation
  • Factional feud surfaces in his party, RPP unhappy
  • CPN (Maoist Centre) also has too many aspirants
- Post Report, Kathmandu
Poudel faction is seeking at least 40 percent share in the Cabinet, while the Sitaula camp has said ‘it won’t settle for less’

Jun 8, 2017-

When Parliament voted to elect the new prime minister on Tuesday, it was plain sailing for NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba, who returned to power after 12 years with 388 votes in the 593-strong Parliament.

He was sworn in as the 40th prime minister on Wednesday. 

For PM Deuba there are several challenges on the national front, including completing the job half done by his predecessor Pushpa Kamal Dahal. 

Given his chequered past, as critics often blame him for putting democracy in crisis every time he was the prime minister, he also has an opportunity to prove himself. 

But no sooner had Deuba assumed office on Wednesday than newer challenges emerged, a fall-out of revolving-door politics, which some fear could become a stumbling block for the government in dealing with pressing issues.

PM Deuba on Wednesday appointed seven ministers—three from his party, as many from the CPN (Maoist Centre) and one from the Nepal Loktantrik Forum.

Deuba, who holds the dubious distinction of leading one of the largest Cabinets, first of all faces the challenge of managing his own party. 

While factional feud has already started to rear its ugly head in the Congress party, with too many aspirants for ministerial berths, the pressure he could face from his coalition partners cannot be ruled out. 

The rival faction in the NC led by Ram Chandra Poudel has already upped the ante, objecting to what it called the establishment side’s “unilateral decision” while picking the ministers. And there is another group led by Krishna Prasad Sitaula, which is also demanding a “fair share” in the Cabinet.

 

The Poudel faction, which refused to send ministers on the first day, has demanded at least 40 percent share in the Cabinet, while the Sitaula camp has said “it won’t settle for less”.

On Wednesday morning, the Poudel faction held a meeting in Anamnagar where party leaders including General Secretary Sashank Koirala, Treasurer Sita Devi Yadav and senior leaders Ram Sharan Mahat, Mahesh Acharya, Minendra Rijal and Dilendra Badu among others were present. 

Neither the central working committee meeting nor the Parliamentary Party meeting was called when the ministers were decided, a Congress leader said, adding the decision was taken “unilaterally”. The leaders even discussed whether they should skip Deuba’s oath-taking ceremony. Poudel later decided to attend the function, but some senior leaders chose to skip. “Both Deuba and Poudel will sit together, most probably on Thursday, to sort the issues out,” said the NC leader. 

But leading a coalition government has its own burden, as has been seen in the past. 

The Maoist Centre, which is struggling to pick ministers for the new Cabinet, also has too many aspirants and this could put pressure on Deuba while “distributing” the portfolios. After an hours-long meeting, the party on Wednesday decided to send Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Janardan Sharma and Prabhu Shah to the government. Leaders like Top Bahadur Rayamajhi and Giriraj Mani Pokhrel are also staking claim to ministerial portfolios. 

Meanwhile, the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) is learnt to have been unhappy with PM Deuba for not consulting the party before the swearing-in function. 

According to RPP leader Dilnath Giri, PM Deuba had assured that he would consult the party before taking oath and that he would allocate ministries for the party. 

The Ministry for Federal Affairs and Local Development (MoFALD), Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Ministry of Land Reforms and the Ministry of Supply were held by the RPP in the previous government, which the party quit objecting to the NC-Maoist Centre alliance’s move to impeach then chief justice Sushila Karki. MoFALD has already been given to Nepal Loktantrik Forum (NLF) Chairman Bijay Kumar Gachhadar. 

“It seems Deuba just wanted votes [from us]. He doesn’t seem committed to his word,” Girl told the Post, adding that his party might not join the government “if we don’t get  a respectable share”. 

For PM Deuba, who has promised an amendment to the constitution to address the agitating Madhes-based parties’ demand, the support of the RPP will be crucial when it comes to endorsing the statute amendment bill, as the party holds 37 seats in Parliament. As the RPP is twice the size of the NLF, it has demanded at least six ministries, for the latter is getting three ministries. 

Published: 08-06-2017 08:04

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