Prime Minister (PM) Sher Bahadur Deuba has not been able to expand the Cabinet due to differences in the ruling coalition about the ordinance making splitting of parties easier.
Deuba, who was appointed PM on July 13, has not been able to complete the Cabinet in more than two months and has inducted just two ministers each from Nepali Congress (NC) and Maoist Center and a state minister from NC.
He was expected to expand it after September 7, the deadline the Election Commission gave to CPN-UML provincial lawmakers and local representatives to join CPN (Unified Socialist). But he has not been able to expand it after coalition partners CPN (Unified Socialist) and Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP) took different stands on what to do about the ordinance.
An NC leader close to Deuba confided with Setopati that Unified Socialist and JSP are not in favor of Cabinet expansion anytime soon despite Deuba repeatedly urging the coalition partners to give him list of the ministers from the respective parties.
The government has registered a bill in the House to replace the ordinance. The ordinance allows split of a party with support of just 20 percent in either the central committee or parliamentary party. The act about political parties required support of 40 percent in both the parliamentary party and the central committee to split any political party.
Chairman of Unified Socialist Madhav Kumar Nepal wants the bill to be passed as it is without any amendment in the ordinance fearing any amendment can cause problem for his newly registered party. He is adamant that the bill should not be amended at least until the SC issues verdict on the case about split in UML.
JSP Chairman Upendra Yadav, on the other hand, insists that the bill should either be revoked or amended before Cabinet expansion pointing that there is danger of another split in the party if some leaders are not made ministers.
JSP is expected to get at least five ministries but that will not be enough to placate all the aspirants as most of the 18 House of Representatives (HoR) members who verified in support of Yadav at the Election Commission wants to become minister.
Yadav, therefore, wants Cabinet expansion to be deferred until the replacement bill is amended or revoked.
The delay by the SC in hearing of petition filed by CPN-UML demanding implementation of expulsion of 14 HoR members by the party has further compounded matters.
The petition was scheduled to be heard by the joint bench of Justices Deepak Kumar Karki and Meera Khadka on Monday but the SC listed the petition among cases that could not be heard that day in lack of time.
UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli has lodged three separate petitions with the Supreme Court (SC) against the Election Commission and Speaker Agni Sapkota. The joint bench was to hear arguments about whether to issue interim order on two of those petitions on Monday.
A bench of Chief Justice (CJ) Cholendra Shumsher Rana on September 7 had refused to issue interim order in the writ petition filed demanding revocation of registration of CPN (Unified Socialist) after splitting CPN-UML stating that there are no grounds and reasons to issue one.
The bench of CJ Rana had summoned both the sides for discussion on September 13 in the petition against Speaker Agni Sapkota for not implementing the party's decision to expel 14 House of Representatives (HoR) members. The bench had also summoned both the sides for discussion on September 13 on another petition against speaker of Lumbini for not implementing the action against two provincial assembly members of UML.
Speaker Sapkota had sent a letter to the Election Commission informing that UML has 121 HoR members and 33 National Assembly members despite the party writing to him about expulsion of 14 HoR members.
UML had expelled 14 HoR members of the Khanal-Nepal faction including Madhav Kumar Nepal on August 17 accusing them of trying to split the party. The faction subsequently applied for registration of a new party the next day with the Election Commission.
The lawmakers expelled from the House included Nepal, Jeevan Ram Shrestha, Mukunda Neupane, Ram Kumari Jhakri, Kalyani Khadka, Laxmi Kumari Chaudhary, Nira Devi Jairu, Pushpa Kumari Karna, Sarala Yadav, Kalila Khatun, Birodh Khatiwada, Krishna Lal Maharjan, Bhawani Khapung and Met Mani Chaudhary.
UML lawmakers then put pressure on Sapkota to implement the decision by issuing notice about their expulsion but to no avail even as Nepal and other expelled lawmakers registered a new party in accordance to the ordinance brought to make splitting of parties easier.
The act about political parties requires the speaker to implement expulsion of lawmakers by issuing notice about expulsion within 15 days. But Speaker Sapkota sat on the letter sent by UML about expulsion of 14 lawmakers including Madhav Kumar Nepal for 13 days and then decided to not implement the decision pointing that the Election Commission has already registered a new party under Nepal.