KATHMANDU, Jan 20: The ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has decided to field Agni Prasad Sapkota for speaker of the House of Representatives. The party’s secretariat meeting on Sunday evening made the decision ending nearly four months-long dispute between the party’s former UML and former Maoist factions, each of which claimed the position.
The position of speaker is vacant since the first week of October following the resignation of Krishna Bahadur Mahara, who has been accused of rape attempt and is currently in jail for investigations.
Since the NCP commands a majority in the House of Representatives, Sapkota is almost certain to be appointed speaker.
Top leaders of the party agreed to pick Sapkota after a series of closed-door meetings. A group of leaders representing “former Maoists” led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal had been lobbying to pick speaker candidate from their group arguing that Mahara had got the position allotted for former Maoists in a previous power-sharing deal.
Another group of leaders led by Prime Minister KP Oli commonly known as “former UML camp” was lobbying to pick Subas Nembang for speaker describing him as experienced hand.
Apart from these two key contenders deputy speaker Shivamaya Tumbahangphe had also been claiming the position. The party, however, didn’t listen to her plea despite a large section of leaders in the party and the general public backing her.
As the delay in fielding a speaker candidate delayed endorsement of several bills pending in parliament and the US $500 million MCC grant, Oli softened his position and agreed on Sapkota for speaker, according to leaders.
Shortly after getting green signal from Oli, Dahal visited NCP leader Madhav Kumar Nepal’s residence to seek his support.
Based on the agreement reached among the top leaders, the secretariat meeting held at the prime minister’s residence in Baluwatar endorsed Sapkota for speaker candidate.
“The secretariat meeting has decided to field honorable member of the House of Representatives Agni Prasad Sapkota as candidate for speaker,” said the party’s general secretary Bishnu Poudel adding, “We believe deputy speaker Shivamaya Tumbahangphe will support us by resigning [her] position.”
Sapkota has been accused of murdering a schoolteacher in Kavrepalanchowk, Arjun Bahadur Lama, during the insurgency and a case is sub judice at the Supreme Court. The ruling party fielded the leader accused in an insurgency-era murder for speaker just a day after the government recommended “party faithfuls” as commissioners in key transitional justice bodies on Saturday.
Despite the conflict victims’ protests on Saturday, the government-appointed chiefs and members in two TJ bodies --Truth and Reconciliation and Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons—the bodies responsible for settling war-era cases.