Chief Justice (CJ) Cholendra Shumsher Rana has been found to have sought a share in the federal Cabinet even with KP Sharma Oli.
CJ Rana is currently facing a rebellion from inside the Supreme Court (SC) and agitation from the Nepal Bar Association after Prime Minister (PM) Sher Bahadur Deuba appointed his brother-in-law Gajendra Hamal industry minister despite Hamal resigning later following widespread criticism of his appointment.
Multiple sources have now confirmed with Setopati that CJ Rana had sought the same ministry from Deuba's predecessor Oli in return for endorsing the second House dissolution by Oli, and Oli had even accepted the deal.
Oli had inducted 10 ministers from the then Thakur-Mahato faction of Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP) on the basis of that deal with CJ Rana, according to a leader close to Mahantha Thakur. "We joined the government after Oli said 'I have already reached settlement with the Supreme Court. I will include CJ's man in the government, House dissolution will be endorsed. You all should join the government,'" the leader told Setopati.
Oli then inducted 10 ministers from the Thakur-Mahato faction on June 4. But he later appointed Raj Kishor Yadav from the faction as the industry minister on June 10 without recommendation from the party leaders.
The SC was moved against the Cabinet expansion done after House dissolution. A joint bench including CJ Rana on June 22 then revoked the appointment of 20 ministers including 11 from the faction and leaders who joined UML quitting CPN (Maoist Center) among others.
"I don't know why Oli appointed Raj Kishor Yadav industry minister without appointing CJ Rana's man. CJ Rana vented his ire of not getting the ministry on us," the leader claimed.
A UML leader close to Oli also confirmed with Setopati that CJ Rana had demanded a minister and two ambassadors. "PM discussed with us about Cabinet expansion and read out the names for the ministries. But he hesitated when he reached Industry Ministry," the UML leader reminisced. "We then asked him why he hesitated on reaching that ministry and told him that he may appoint whoever he chooses but should tell the name. He only said 'it's so-so.'"
The leader claimed that Oli revealed the secret only after much insistence. "He said his neighbor has asked for Industry Ministry. We then said that cannot happen at any cost. We pointed that there are many other places if CJ has sought a share of spoils but we should not give in the executive. That will be disaster," the leader elaborated. "He agreed after we told him he can say he was unable to convince friends in the party but should not make minister. The post of all the ministers was revoked by the bench of Rana perhaps due to an effect of that."
The UML leader pointed that Oli was not happy that the Thakur-Mahato faction did not recommend Yadav as minister and, therefore, appointed Yadav as the industry minister after he decided to not give a share to CJ Rana.
When asked whether Oli told Thakur and Rajendra Mahato that he has already reached settlement with CJ Rana in exchange for a minister the leader said "He may have said. But I don't know about that."