KATHMANDU, Feb 27: Most of the provincial governments are still struggling to expand their council of ministers to give full shape to the provincial governments even after getting chief ministers.
The struggle to form council of ministers is most apparent in provinces 1, 2, 4 and 5. On the other hand, provinces 6 and 7 have made significant progress by forming their respective governments.
Due to high number of aspirants for limited ministerial portfolios, Province 1 is facing delay in the expansion of cabinet. A three-member council of minister was formed on February 15 but the rest of the ministerial positions are yet to be filled due to the ongoing disputes between aspiring candidates of CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center). Both the left parties had recently announced party unification.
Province 1 Chief Minister (CM) Sher Dhan Rai has been saying that the council of ministers would be finalized very soon. Yet, the expansion of the provincial government has dragged on for a long time. He repeated the commitment on Monday's provincial cabinet meeting. Yet, uncertainty still lingers on when the council of ministers would take the final shape.
The struggle is no different in Province 2. It is almost the third week since Province 2 CM and two other provincial ministers took oath of office and assumed their roles as new ministers. However, giving full shape to the council of ministers has dragged on due to lack of consensus among the leaders of the ruling parties.
According to a reliable source, the delay is due to the failure to reach an understanding between Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN) and Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) to finalize the ministerial candidates.
There have been rumors that FSFN leader Sailendra Prasad Sah, who was elected from Saptari constituency 2 (a), would be given the role to head Agriculture and Cooperative Minster while another leader of the party Gyanendra Yadv would be given the ministry of Internal Affairs.
“We have already decided the nominations from our side. However, RJPN is unable to do so, resulting in the delay in expansion of the council of ministers,” said an FSFN leader. It is learnt that RJPN is struggling with internal turf due to many aspirants within the party.
Likewise, there has also been delay in expanding the council of ministers in Province 4.
According to sources, the main problem is that leaders of UML are not able to decide on ministerial nominations due to numerous aspirants. The situation is such that party leadership would not be able to make a clear decision on the matter without angering some of the loyal leaders within the party.
As per the power-sharing deal reached between UML and Maoist Center, UML would get five ministries, including the CM, while the latter would get two ministries and the post of speaker. Currently, CM Prithivi Subba Gurung is heading all the ministries as no other minister has been appointed yet.
Gurung has not been able to induct a single minister even after almost two weeks of taking oath of office. UML is the biggest party in the provincial parliament with 27 members in total. As a result, the party is facing a big challenge to pick few ministers from such a big number of aspirants.
As of now, three ministerial seats are vacant in Province 4. The posts are of minister for Financial Affairs and Planning, minister for Physical Infrastructure and minister for Social Development. All of the seats belong to UML.
The situation on expansion of cabinet in Province 5 is equally bleak. Currently, there is only a three-member council of ministers, including the CM. The ruling left alliance UML and Maoist Center have not been able to form consensus in division of ministries. As a result, the province has a long way to go in terms of expanding the council of ministers.
According to provincial parliamentary members, UML has demanded five ministries out of the total seven. However, Maoist Center has remained adamant that they should get three ministries and four for UML.
“Previously, we had already agreed with CM that Maoist Center would get three seats in the council of ministers. However, the CM later tried to allocate us just two seats, which would not be acceptable for us,” said Indra Jeet Tharu, a member of the provincial parliament of Province 5.
Only Province 6 has had a smooth sailing in the matters of current federal affairs. On Saturday, the ruling parties reached an agreement to rename the province as 'Karnali Province' and its capital has been fixed as Birendranagar.
Unlike other provinces, consensus was reached easily in Karnali Province.
The elected parliamentarians from Jumla were demanding their district to be the provincial capital. Meanwhile, parliamentarians from Surkhet were demanding the province to be named as 'Bheri' or 'Bherikarnali'.
In such circumstances, renaming the province as 'Karnali' made the parliamentarians from Jumla very happy. Likewise, parliamentarians from Surkhet were ready to make compromise after they got the capital city. As a result, the fourth cabinet meeting of the province succeeded in uniting all the parliamentarians in reaching consensus.
(Binod Subedi from Biratnagar, Jitendra Kumar Jha from Rajbiraj, Devendra Basnet from Dang and Kalendra Sejuwal from Surkhet contributed to this report)