Plans to send Maoist Center ministers to reserve pool
RPP chief Thapa poised to become DPM, home minister
KATHMANDU, Oct 13: As a part of his plan to reshuffle the cabinet and relieve the ministers representing CPN (Maoist Center) of their portfolios, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is all set to expand his cabinet Saturday. Deuba is preparing to induct eight leaders from the Rastriya Prajatantra Party into the cabinet Saturday.
The prime minister on Friday wrote to the Office of President, informing his decision to induct eight ministers including four state ministers from Rastriya Prajatantra Party in his cabinet. The RPP had extended its support to the government after the coalition partner CPN (Maoist Center) decided to forge electoral alliance with the main opposition party, CPN-UML.
Deuba plans to appoint RPP Chairman Kamal Thapa as deputy minister, and Dilanath Giri, Jayanta Chand and Bikram Bahadur Thapa as ministers without portfolio; and Kunti Shahi, Bhaskar Bhadra, Sushil Shrestha and Kanta Bhattarai as state ministers, according to his press advisor Gobinda Pariyar.
The prime minister plans to swear in the new ministers at the Office of President at Shital Niwas Saturday evening. Given the constitutional provision that ministers must be members of parliament, Prime Minister Deuba plans to administer the oath of office and secrecy to the ministers before the expiry of the parliament on Saturday midnight.
Sources said Prime Minister Deuba has reached an understanding with the RPP to appoint Thapa as home minister as well.
NC leaders said Prime Minister Deuba expects that all Maoist Center ministers will resign on their own on moral grounds following the expansion of the cabinet. If they do not resign, the prime minister plans to reshuffle the cabinet and send the Maoist Center ministers to a reserve pool.
Maoist Center has termed the decision to expand the cabinet as 'objectionable' and a serious violation of the election code of conduct. "There are rumors that the move is aimed at eventually ousting the Maoist ministers. We still don't believe this. But if our ministers are removed, we will take an appropriate decision," said Maoist Center leader Haribol Gajurel.
After Saturday's expansion, Deuba's cabinet will have a total of 64 members. Gajurel said that Deuba, who had courted serious controversy by forming the largest cabinet in the past, did not seem to improve his image even this time. "This was absolutely unnecessary at the moment," he said.
Maoist Center is meeting Saturday to discuss how to respond to the latest move of the prime minister. There are already apprehensions in political circle in Kathmandu that the move could even trigger political confrontation, with EC, President and Speaker of the House clearly not in favor of this.
This is already too much: EC Chief
Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav took strong exception to the prime minister's move. "We received a written commitment of top leaders of all political parties only today [Friday] to fully abide by the election code of conduct. But in the evening we heard about preparations to expand the cabinet. This is already too much. Instead of giving my personal opinion, Election Commission will publicize its official position tomorrow [Saturday]," Yadav told Republica.
The expansion of cabinet comes in the wake of repeated warnings by the Election Commission (EC) that any such move would violate the election code of conduct. Only on Friday, Prime Minister Deuba had expressed written commitment to abide by the election code of conduct during a meeting with election commissioners.