KATHMANDU, Dec 25: Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) which earlier agreed with ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) to support each other in the upcoming election for the vacant positions of National Assembly (NA) has quietly started lobbying for the post of Deputy Speaker.
Senior RJPN leaders say they rightfully deserve the post should the NCP decide to ask incumbent Deputy Speaker Shiva Maya Tumbahamphe to step down and elect an NCP leader to the post of Speaker. The existing parliamentary laws prohibit a single party from having both the positions of Speaker and Deputy Speaker.
Although the RJPN has not taken any official decision who its candidate will be, the name of the party’s woman leader Chanda Chaudhary is already under discussion in recent days. Party insiders said their claim for the deputy speaker has become further strong with Socialist Party led by Upendra Yadav deciding to quit the government on Tuesday.
RJPN General Secretary Keshab Jha admitted that RJPN, as one of the opposition parties, has a natural claim over the post of Deputy Speaker should the post fall vacant. “The ruling NCP has to give this post to one of the opposition parties. This means that we are a stronger contender for the post,” he said.
However, leaders within NCP are divided over giving the Deputy Speaker post to RJPN or a leader of Rastriya Janamorcha Durga Paudel, who was elected from Pyuthan with the support of the ruling NCP.
The post of Deputy Speaker is considered crucial for the ruling party in view of the composition of Constitutional Council (CC) that makes crucial appointments at various constitutional bodies. The CC has a total six members including Prime Minister, Chairman of National Assembly, Speaker of House of Representatives, Deputy Speaker, Chief Justice and the leader of the main opposition party.
Any decision by the CC is made through the majority voting system. Since the chief justice and the main opposition party leader do not usually give in to all the proposals of the ruling party, the vote of the Deputy Speaker normally determines whether the government can secure its majority in the CC.
RJPN insiders say the decision of the Samajbadi Party Nepal to quit the government has also paved the way for the RJPN to join the government and have its own leadership in Province 2. Province 2 currently has the chief minister from the Samajbadi Party Nepal (SPN), with RJPN joining its hands to form the government.
In the provincial assembly of Province 2, the ruling NCP has 32 seats, while SPN and RJPN have 29 and 25, respectively. The main opposition Nepali Congress has 19 seats in the 107-member assembly. The growing bonhomie between NCP and RJPN means that they can form their government, ousting the current SPN-led government.
General Secretary Jha, however, ruled out this possibility unless their demand to release their cadres including their elected lawmaker Resham Chaudhary and expedite the process to bring amendment in the constitution is met. “We can then think of joining the government once our demands are met. As for now, we will not join the Oli government and the government in the province 2 shall remain intact,” he further said.