KATHMANDU, July 17: As Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba plans to expand his cabinet within a few days, he is struggling to cope with the pressure from ministerial aspirants in his own his party.
Nepali Congress leaders said Deuba is under pressure over the sharing of ministries with the ruling coalition partner CPN (Maoist Center) as the Maoist party has demanded several 'powerful' ministries.
NC has kept for itself at least 13 of the total 29 ministerial portfolios in the current cabinet. The prime minister plans to give nine ministries to the Maoist Center and three ministries to Bijaya Gachchhadar-led Nepal Loktantrik Forum.
While Prime Minister Deuba has already appointed three ministers -- Gyanendra Bahadur Karki (Finance), Gopal Man Shrestha (Education) and Farmullaha Mansoor (Labor) -- from his faction in the party, he has promised four ministerial portfolios to Ram Chandra Paudel-led faction and one each to Krishna Sitaula and Khum Bahadur Khadka factions of his party.
Now although there remain only four ministerial berths allocated for his party, Deuba has over a dozen aspirants for ministers. "The prime minister is in a difficult position now over expanding the cabinet due to many aspirants," said an NC leader belonging to Deuba faction.
NP Saud, Bharat Bahadur Shah, Bir Bahadur Balayar, Meen Bishwakarma, Ambika Basnet, Mahalaxmi Upadhyay Dina, Mohan Basnet, Ram Hari Khatiwada and Padma Narayan Chaudhary are among the strong contenders for ministerial berths from Deuba faction in the party.
According to Maoist Center leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha, the Maoist Center has now demanded six additional ministries including Health, Energy, Agriculture, Women, General Administration and Livestock Development. "There has already been an agreement with us on the number and the ministries. Our party is not to be blamed for the delay in cabinet expansion," Shrestha told Republica. The Maoist Center already has Home, Foreign, and Urban Development portfolios.
Sources said cabinet expansion has been delayed also due to the indecision of Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP). Prime Minister Deuba is in favor of inducting as many parties as possible in the cabinet in order to expedite the constitution amendment bill and make the government stable.
"Efforts are underway to bring both the RPP and Upendra Yadav-led Federal Socialist Forum Nepal on board the government. If these parties decide not to join the cabinet, it would be easier for Deuba to accommodate the ministerial aspirants from his party in the government," said a senior NC leader asking not to be named.