The ruling Nepal Communist Party reshuffled the cabinet last Thursday. But the party does not seem to have paid much attention to an urgent issue: Electing Speaker of the House of Representatives. Since October 1, when the Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara resigned after being accused of attempted rape by an employee at the parliament secretariat, the lower house of the parliament remains headless and it has seriously affected the business of the parliament. Dozens of urgent bills are awaiting endorsement from the House. The Bill on Adjustment of Nepal Police, which was endorsed by the parliament in the last session, is one example. In the absence of the Speaker, it is yet to be certified. Existing parliamentary regulation does not authorize the Deputy Speaker to authenticate the bill. Besides, since existing parliamentary regulations and parliamentary practice do not allow the deputy speaker to start and close House meetings, the winter session is also being deferred.
Though NCP denies it, the main reason for the delay in summoning the House session is the inability of the party to choose the new speaker. Apparently, the party is struggling over whether to promote the current Deputy Speaker Shiva Maya Tumbahamphe to the post of speaker or whether to bring in a new face to that coveted post. The constitution has clearly stated that “if the office of the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker falls vacant, the members of the House of Representatives shall fill the vacancy by electing the Speaker or Deputy Speaker from amongst themselves.” Besides, there is a provision that either speaker or deputy speaker of the house should be a woman. NCP itself has a lot of potential candidates to field for that position. Besides, it can also consult with other parties, including main opposition Nepali Congress, over this matter. First, it needs to realize the urgency of the job and also ensure that the person to lead the house will be chosen from among competent candidates.
It need not be emphasized how important it is to keep the parliament running. There are pressing issues to discuss at the moment. Kalapani issue is one. What position should Nepal take to resolve this issue? How should Nepal approach India in this matter? If we have the parliament session running these questions would be discussed and people would get to know the positions of the respective parties. Besides, across the country the medical students have been staging protests against the medical colleges for charging them higher fees. This question too could be discussed in the parliament. None of this is happening because the government has not been able to call the winter session and the winter session has not been called because of the indecisiveness of the ruling party over who should lead the lower house as the speaker. The ruling party should break this indecisiveness and summon the winter session. Many pending issues are waiting to be discussed and, as things stand, bills are to be deliberated and certified. The sovereign parliament should not be held hostage simply for the indecision of the ruling party.