The perennial delay, indecision and what now seems like brinkmanship of ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) over the selection of candidate for the post of speaker of House of Representatives is troubling for many reasons. It reeks of misogyny too. It is already more than three months since the post fell vacant after the resignation of Krishna Bahadur Mahara over the charge of rape attempt in October last year. To keep the lower house of parliament headless for over three months in itself is against the parliamentary practice. This is unwarranted also because there are competent candidates within the party itself. The leadership only has to make the right decision and pick the right candidate. Besides, in the last three months ruling party does not seem to have consulted the main opposition Nepali Congress over this matter even though the constitution has it that either speaker or deputy speaker of House of Representatives should be from different parties.
Deputy Speaker Shivamaya Tumbahangphe is qualified enough for the job. She is a woman, a Janajati and a highly qualified person. There is no reason why Tumbahangphe cannot be elected to the post. Election of Tumbahangphe will also do justice to the principle of inclusion and the constitutional provision that either the speaker or the deputy speaker of the parliament has to be a woman. Granted that it is up to the party to decide whom to elect as they have the majority. But ruling NCP, apparently, is not willing to elevate Tumbahangphe to the post of speaker because former UML faction and former Maoist faction are competing to have their own ‘men’ in the top post. While former UML faction within the party wants to bring Subash Chandra Nembang, who served as the speaker of Constituent Assembly for two terms, back to the post, former Maoist faction within the party wants to bring someone like Agni Prasad Sapkota. Troublingly, in this power rivalry between the two factions, top leaders of the party want to put Tumbahangphe out of the race. They have asked Tumbahangphe to resign from the post of deputy speaker and have reportedly offered her the post of law minister instead. She has refused to resign and told the top leaders that she won’t back down. She has been appreciated for taking this stand on social media and there is a growing voice that Tumbahangphe should be elected the speaker. It remains to be seen how the party responds to this voice in favor of Tumbahangphe.
Ruling party’s indecision and maneuvers to exclude Tumbahangphe from the race has already given the message that the party cares little about gender balance and inclusion. What is more serious is that the ruling party has held the parliament hostage for more than three months. Top leaders of ruling party should break the current stalemate and create the environment for early election of the speaker. They have no right to hold the parliament hostage simply for their indecision or their desire to appoint a man by sidelining a qualified woman.