KATHMANDU, Dec 12: Sher Dhan Rai, Lal Babu Raut, Astha Laxmi Shakya, Prithvi Subba Gurung, Shankar Pokharel, Mahendra Bahadur Shahi and Karna Bahadur Thapa have been seen as the frontrunners to lead the provincial governments as the left alliance and Madhes-based parties begin their search for future chief minister candidates from among two dozen hopefuls.
All seven provinces are expected to get their governments by the second week of January next year, setting the stage for Nepal's journey as a federal republic. The formation of the provincial governments will begin soon after the formation of the central cabinet. Elected representatives from each provincial assembly will elect the new chief minister just the same way the federal parliament will elect the Prime Minister.
Votes counted until Monday put the left alliance in a comfortable position to form governments in six provinces, while the Madhes-based parties are confirmed to form the government in Province 2.
Left leaders said that the CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) are likely to lead governments in four and two provinces, respectively, based on the seats won by the two parties in the provincial assemblies.
As of 8 pm Monday, UML has registered victory in 160 seats for provincial assemblies and was leading in six seats. The CPN (Maoist Center) has won 69 seats and is leading in five seats.
Similarly, the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal, which has won 18 seats in Province 2 and is expected to win one more seat, has been seen as the favorite to form the government in Province 2. The Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN), which went to the polls forming a common alliance with FSFN, has won just 15 seats in the province.
Though the parties went to polls without announcing their chief ministerial candidates fearing internal discord and backstabbing, they are certain to face a far bigger challenge now due to the sheer number of aspirants for the post of chief minister.
There is huge interest in the chief ministerial position as the head of the provincial government is expected to be the second most coveted position after the prime minister due to the vast amount of power and resources at the disposal of the chief minister. Unlike the central government, the provincial governments are likely to be more stable, providing the chief ministers the time to see their agenda through.
Cross-party leaders said that at least a dozen candidates have started lobbying to be the chief minister in each province.
Some probable chief ministerial candidates from the UML-Maoist alliance include Sher Dhan Rai and Bhim Acharya (Province 1) , Nagendra Chaudhary, Satya Narayan Mandal and Gajat Yadav (Province 2), Rajendra Pandey, Astha Laxmi Shakya, Pashupati Chaulagain, Sanu Shrestha and Arun Nepal (Province 3) , Prithvi Subba Gurung and Kiran Gurung (Province 4), Baij Nath Chaudhary and Shankar Pokharel (Province 5) , Kul Prasad KC, Naresh Bhandari, Mahendra Shahi, Prakash Jwala, Yamlal Kandel and Mahendra Bahadur Shahi (Province 6), Satya Pahadi, and Karna Bahadur Thapa (Province 7). Similarly, Lal Babu Raut of FSFN and Manish Kumar Suman of RJPN have been seen as two most powerful contenders to lead Province 2.
"Our party will have claim on at least two chief minister positions based on the share of votes. Province 6 will be one of the two provinces where we will have a natural claim but another province will be chosen after consultation with UML," said a CPN Maoist leader. The leader said that the left alliance will jointly form governments in all provinces.
The size of the cabinet will be determined by the strength of provincial assembly of the respective province. According to the law, each provincial government can have a cabinet one fifth the size of the provincial assembly.
Province 6 will have the smallest cabinet comprising eight ministers, while Province 3 will have the largest cabinet with 22 ministers. Similarly, provinces 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 will respectively have cabinets comprising 19, 21, 12, 17, and 11 ministers.