After struggling for weeks to expand the Cabinet, the prime minister and top leaders of the major ruling coalition partners are now closing in on a power-sharing deal, The Kathmandu Post reported.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal will expand his Cabinet by Wednesday if not Tuesday, said sources at the prime minister's secretariat.
According to sources, Dahal is now for inducting ministers at least in key ministries, even if he fails to give the Cabinet a full shape.
Currently, in charge of 16 ministries, Dahal is running the government with the help of five ministers and a minister of state. Of them, five are from his own party and one is from the Janamat Party, The Kathmandu Post reported.
To expand the Cabinet, the prime minister has called a meeting of the ruling coalition on Tuesday afternoon, based on an understanding reached with the top leaders of the major coalition partners at a meeting on Monday.
Dahal, on Monday, held discussions over power-sharing with Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba and CPN (Unified Socialist) chair Madhav Kumar Nepal, at Baluwatar, The Kathmandu Post reported.
According to members of the prime minister's Secretariat, Dahal wanted to expand his Cabinet at the latest by Tuesday, if all the coalition partners agreed to a broader power-sharing deal agreed among the top leaders. But not all coalition partners are convinced with the proposed deal as they are demanding not only more ministries but also the portfolios of their choice.
"We discussed the Cabinet expansion today, but things are yet to be settled," Madhav Kumar Nepal, chair of the CPN (Unified Socialist), told the Post after a tripartite meeting on Monday. "I think it will take two or three more days for the prime minister to expand his Cabinet.
"But the chief advisor to the prime minister, Haribol Gajurel, claimed that the Cabinet will be expanded by Wednesday, if not Tuesday.
"Though the coalition partners have been demanding more ministries, the top leaders are close to an understanding," said Gajurel. "The prime minister is working to expand the Cabinet by finalising which ministries would be headed by which parties."
According to Gajurel, the prime minister is planning to call a meeting of the coalition partners to settle the issue.
However, some ruling coalition leaders are blaming the Unified Socialist, besides the Congress, for the delay, as the latter is struggling to finalise its nominees for ministers, The Kathmandu Post reported.
The Unified Socialist, which has only 10 seats in the House of Representatives, has been demanding three ministries, including one among Home, Finance and Physical Infrastructure and Transportation. Other coalition partners don't want the party to be given so much weight. The Unified Socialist has also failed in becoming a national party by garnering only three per cent of the total valid votes cast under the proportional representation category in the last parliamentary elections, The Kathmandu Post reported.
There are also other contenders. The Congress and the Maoist Centre, for instance, have locked horns over the home and finance portfolios.
Senior vice-chair of the ruling Maoist Centre, Narayan Kaji Shrestha, organised a press meeting on Monday to make public his activities as the deputy prime minister and the minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transportation, hinting at his possible exit from the ministry to take up another portfolio, The Kathmandu Post reported.
Shrestha, however, told reporters that it is untrue that he is set to become the next Home Minister. He said it was the prime minister who takes the decision and he would abide by whatever decision is made.
Although the Nagarik Unmukti Party chair Ranjita Shrestha had told the Post recently that her party wouldn't join the government, its general secretary Ratan Thapa claimed that the party was recommending party chair Shrestha to join the government at the prime minister's request.
"Yes, our party will join the government as the ruling coalition is committed to fulfilling our party's demand of releasing our patron Resham Chaudhary," Thapa told the Post.
The prime minister was preparing to expand his Cabinet after formulating the coalition's Common Minimum Programme (CMP). But he is now prioritising Cabinet expansion as the preparation of the CMP could take some time, The Kathmandu Post reported.
On Sunday, the Unified Socialist chair Nepal also said that the Cabinet will be expanded only after the CMP is ready.
According to Congress leaders, party president Sher Bahadur Deuba is preparing to send party vice president Purna Bahadur Khadka to the government as Finance Minister, leading the party in the Cabinet, while Prakash Sharan Mahat could become Foreign Minister.
"Though the former home minister Khadka wanted the same ministry this time as well, the Maoist Centre was insistent on the ministry's retention," said a Congress leader, asking not to be named. "With the Home portfolio not up for grabs, Khadka hopes to get Finance, in which case he could get the foreign ministry."
However, a Congress leader close to Mahat claimed that Khadka is likely to lead the party as deputy prime minister and defence minister while Mahat will lead the finance ministry.
Possible Congress ministers include Dig Bahadur Limbu and Sita Gurung from Koshi Province, Ramesh Rijal or Teju Lal Chaudhary from Madhesh, Mahat and Mohan Basnet from Bagmati, Dhan Raj Gurung or Jivan Pariyar from Gandaki, Kishor Singh Rathaur from Lumbini, Khadka from Karnali and Bir Bahadur Balayar or NP Saud from Sudurpaschim, The Kathmandu Post reported.
The prime minister has been insisting on keeping the home ministry and the ministry for communication and information technology for his own party.
As matters stand, Shrestha, the current deputy prime minister, is expected to be appointed as the new home minister. The party's leader Rekha Sharma already leads the communication ministry and is also the government's spokesperson. (ANI)