Deuba struggles to expand Cabinet

  • PM on a tightrope with too many ministerial aspirants within his party
- Post Report, Kathmandu

Jul 5, 2017-

With the second round of local elections over and 80 percent results already out, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is under mounting pressure to expand his Cabinet, and with too many aspirants from his own party, the Nepali Congress (NC), his task has but become complicated. 

As per the initial agreements, key partners in the government are to share 20 ministries—11 for Deuba’s NC and nine for the CPN (Maoist Centre). Other seven ministries are to be split among other parties supporting the government—Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), Nepal Loktantrik Forum (NFL) and other fringe parties. 

Deuba currently is leading an eight-member Cabinet in which three ministers are from the NC, as many from the Maoist Centre and one from the NFL.

When the RPP joins the government, it is likely to demand at least four ministries, which could put extra pressure on Deuba, say NC leaders, adding that allocating ministries to the Maoist Centre might not be that much of problem. 

“But we have too many aspirants within our own party,” an NC leader said. 

Deuba’s return to power on June 7 entailed responsibilities like holding local elections—the second round of which was held on June 28 and third phase is scheduled for September 18—and overseeing two other polls—provincial and national by January next year. 

Apart from holding polls, Deuba will also have to address the agitating Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal’s concerns, including an amendment to the constitution. 

To address these pressing issues, observers say, Deuba must give his Cabinet full shape at the earliest. 

The NC, the largest party in Parliament, is a divided house, with as many as three factions flexing their muscles to install their leaders at ministries. 

With a small pie of 11 ministries in Deuba’s kitty, NC leaders admit that managing the factions led by Ram Chandra Poudel, Krishna Sitaula and Khum Bahadur Khadka would be a tough task for Deuba.

All three factions are staking claim to at least six ministries, which will leave the establishment faction (Deuba) with five ministries for leaders close to him. 

PM Deuba is learnt to have agreed to allocate five ministries to Poudel and Sitaula factions. And within the Poudel faction, Poudel himself, Sahanka Koirala, Prakash Man Singh and others senior leaders like Ram Sharan Mahat and Bal Bahadur KC have their own choices, said NC insiders. Poudel had earlier recommended KC, but Deuba rejected. 

Mohan Bahadur Basnet’s name is doing the rounds as the probable minister from the Khadka faction, while Bhimsen Das Pradhan could represent the Sitaula faction in the government. 

With Gopal Man Shrestha, Gyanendra Bahadur Karki and Farmullaha Mansur already in the Cabinet, Deuba will then be able to appoint only two ministers from the establishment side.

The prime minister is certainly walking a tightrope, said Min Bahadur Bishwokarma who himself is an aspirant minister from Deuba’s faction. “That’s why the Cabinet has failed to get full shape,” said Bishwokarma. “PM Deuba hopefully will expand the Cabinet by the end of this week.”

Published: 05-07-2017 07:53

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