Sharing Of Portfolios Brews Trouble
The new government, formed under the premiership of Pushpa Kamal Dahal, has not had a smooth ride even after more than a week of its formation. The old disease of selecting the ministers representing the coalition parties has again come to haunt the parties and the government. The government has not yet gained full shape, thanks to the internal strife in the parties that are partners in the government. The two coalition partners, CPN-Maoist (Centre) and the Nepali Congress, will be sharing 21 ministerial porfolios under the premiership of Dahal, chair of the Maoist Centre.
Despite the agreement on sharing the ministerial berths, Prime Minister Dahal is yet to expand his council of ministers into a full-fledged one after his own party, CPN-Maoist (Centre), found itself in trouble over the selection of the party functionaries as ministers. Premier Dahal has had to contend with a small council of ministers, compelling him to keep many of the portfolios with himself. He is expected to hand them over to others when the internal problems facing the coalition partners get settled.
Pressure on PM
PM Dahal has confronted pressure in selecting the names of his own party members who will be sharing eight ministerial portfolios that have fallen in its lap after the agreement with the Nepali Congress which will be taking 13 ministerial portfolios. The rest of the portfolios will go to other parties that supported Dahal’s premiership.
Initially, Dahal formed a six-member cabinet, including him as the prime minister. He chose three of his party members - Krishna Bahadur Mahara (Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister), Daljit Shripailee (Youth and Sports Minister) and Gauri Shankar Chaudhary (Agriculture Minister) while the Nepali Congress nominated Bimalendra Nidhi (Deputy PM and Home Minister) and Ramesh Lekhak (Physical Infrastructure and Transportation). Now, three ministers, two from Rastriya Prajatantra Party and one from Maoist (Samyukta), have been appointed to bring the number to nine.
It is said that one of the leading Maoist Centre leaders, Prabhakar, has refused to become the Minister for Communication and Information. He is said to be demanding a higher rank that would put him at par with Mahara in the cabinet. He has, therefore, decided to “serve” the party rather than be a member in the Dahal cabinet. However, no one in the Maoist party and outside would be surprised if chairman Dahal were to bring Prabhakar in the cabinet by convincing him of his importance there.
Reports further suggest that the ministerial hopefuls in the Maoist party are piling pressure to nominate them to the cabinet. The problem for Dahal is, there are too many party functionaries who want to be ministers this time around. Dahal’s decision not to repeat the leaders who have already enjoyed ministerial posts in the erstwhile government has made his task easier. But the sheer number of hopefuls has put him in trouble.
The Nepali Congress is equally facing trouble selecting its leaders for the ministerial portfolios. A key leader - Arjun Narsingh KC – refused the Ministry of Defence or the Ministry of Health as he had expected to get the Home Affairs ministry, which has gone to Nidhi, probably as an award for his role in bringing the new NC-MC coalition to power.
Another Congress leader, Shekhar Koirala, is said to be dissatisfied with president Sher Bahadur Deuba after the latter refused to provide the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the former. Koirala has reportedly said that he would not join the cabinet if he did not get the ministry of his choice because he would not be taking up another ministry to serve as a mere employee.
The old animosity between the two factions in the Congress has raised its ugly head once again. Ram Chandra Paudel, who is leading a faction of the party against the Deuba-led group, has demanded that Deuba respect the tradition of sharing the ministerial berths among the members of the two factions on a 60/40 basis. According to this sharing, 60 per cent of the portfolios would go to the Deuba faction while 40 per cent is to be reserved for Paudel’s faction. The Paudel-led group has in recent times piled pressure on Deuba to heed the old tradition. However, Deuba is in no mood to do so, which is certain to deepen the differences within the Congress.
In the meantime, the nomination of leaders to the council of ministers has shattered the chances of unification between the two Rastriya Prajatantra Parties. As per the earlier plan, the chairpersons of both the parties were to sign a merger deal on Tuesday (yesterday), but owing to some suspicion, the RPP led by Pashupati Shumsher Rana decided to abort the merger plan and nominated two of its senior leaders to Dahal’s council of ministers.
Rana’s party leaders feel that merger with Kamal Thapa’s RPP-Nepal would cut their party to size. Thapa’s party currently enjoys 25 members in the parliament while RPP has fewer members than RPP-Nepal. As a result, Thapa would certainly be calling the shots while nominating party functionaries to the cabinet. The lure of ministerial berths along with other policy level issues has stopped the RPP from merging with RPP-Nepal.
The issue of whether to join the Dahal-led government has also divided the Madhesi parties and its Federal Alliance partners. Some leaders - Upendra Yadav, Rajendra Mahato and Mahendra Lal Karna - are keen to join the government. There are some ideological issues that have, however, barred them from joining the government, though the Prime Minister has already agreed to look into them.
Too many governments
Indeed, in our nation, getting ministerial berths is a major attraction for almost all the parties. The parties and its leaders often engage in nefarious, undemocratic practices whenever they are denied any ministerial berths. This appears to be the major reason behind the formation of so many governments in a short period of time. In the past 15 months, three governments have been formed while the past 26 years after the restoration of multi-party democracy in the country have witnessed as many governments. This has happened mainly due to the failure of the parties to garner majority seats in the parliament, forcing them to form coalition governments. This practice of forming one government every year on average must end in favour of giving stability to the nation’s politics and ending the ignoble tradition of stooping to any low to get ministerial berths.