The meeting of the five-party ruling coalition today decided to expand the Cabinet immediately.
The meeting of the coalition leaders held at Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's official residence Baluwatar also decided to scrap the ordinance relating to Political Parties (second amendment)-2078 BS
According to a coalition leader present at the meeting, the initiative has been taken to scrap the ordinance while the Cabinet will be expanded by coming Tuesday.
It has to be noted that PM Deuba who assumed office more than two months ago has not been able to give a full shape to the Cabinet. PM Deuba, who has a lot of experience as a premier, is having a difficult time untangling the knots within knots within the alliance. Deuba had to divide up ministerial portfolios among his coalition partners which turned out to be a major hurdle. After the formation of government in mid-July, Nepali Congress (NC) and the CPN Maoist Centre (MC) divided up the powerful ministries — finance, energy, home and law — among themselves.
Moreover, NC leader Narayan Khadka was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs in haste, on September 22, to represent Nepal at the United Nations General Assembly. Khadka took the oath of office and secrecy, assumed office, and departed for New York within 12 hours.
Apart from that, the ministerial appointments had been stalled as Upendra Yadav of the Janata Samajbadi Party-Nepal (JSP) had wanted the post, which he has already held twice before. However, Deuba appears to have finally got all four parties who want their members in the Cabinet to agree on a quota: eight each of the NC and CPN MC, and six each for the JSP and the UML (Unified Socialist) led by Madhav Kumar Nepal.
It is yet to see whether the JSP and the UML (US) would get the ministries with the biggest budgets: education, agriculture, transport and physical infrastructure. Predictably, all coalition parties want ministries with either power, or money, or both.
Likewise, the meeting among the ruling coalition leaders decided to scrap the ordinance relating to political parties as the newly formed parties and those split are at the risk of losing the legal standings.
The government led by Prime Minister Deuba had to suspend the parliament in the middle of the budget session in July so that an ordinance amending the Constitution to allow parties to split if they commanded only 20 per cent of the membership of their parliamentary party could be passed. But the ordinance, which needs to be ratified by the parliament within 60 days, has now become a difficult task for the government.
The ordinance relating to political parties had been introduced to favour Madhav Nepal of the UML (US) so he could legally split from CPN UML. But now the UML (US) leaders worry that the newly formed party may not hold legal standing if it is not ratified. Another challenge being faced by the UML (US) is that CPN UML Chair KP Sharma Oli has filed a writ petition against the party split at the supreme court.
Meanwhile, Yadav of the JSP also wants the ordinance to be scrapped before the Cabinet expansion so that disgruntled members of his own party who do not get their preferred ministerial berths do not split.