KATHMANDU, OCT 15: Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's decision to expand the cabinet just a few days ahead of elections has fuelled speculation about the possible expulsion of the CPN (Maoist Center) ministers from the government.
Deuba on Friday expanded his cabinet, adding eight ministers from the Rastriya Prajatantra Party without assigning them any portfolios. The newly-appointed ministers, who were administered the oath of office on Saturday, include RPP Chairman Kamal Thapa, Dilanath Giri, Jayanta Chand and Bikram Bahadur Thapa. Similarly, Kunti Shahi, Bhaskar Bhadra, Sushil Shrestha and Kanta Bhattarai have been appointed ministers of state.
UML and CPN (Maoist Center) leaders said that the cabinet expansion could be an attempt to push the Maoist Center into a corner. They said that it could also be part of a scheme to defer the polls.
"The only thing that remains to be seen now is will he sack our ministers or rob them of their portfolios," said Mani Thapa of Maoist Center.
Maoist leaders said that Deuba's speech in parliament on Saturday removed all doubts about his motives. Addressing the last sitting of this parliament, Deuba said that the size of the cabinet could be reduced.
"The number of ministers could be increased or decreased as needed. Who knows, you may see the number of ministers in the cabinet decrease in the next few days," he said.
RPP leaders said that Deuba has pledged to give the home ministry portfolio to Kamal Thapa.
Maoist Center has clarified that the party will remain in the coalition until the next election and ruled out any possibility of recalling its ministers at present. The opposition UML has warned against the forced expulsion of Maoist Center ministers, arguing that that would hamper the elections.
In his address to parliament, UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli demanded to know the motive behind the 'ill-timed' expansion of the cabinet. He said that the cabinet expansion has come as a gross violation of the election code of conduct.
"It looks like preparations to remove the Maoist ministers. Why else would the government, whose days are outnumbered, induct new ministers at the eleventh hour?" questioned Oli.