UML ‘to grill’ Nepal PM for slicing ministries

KATHMANDU, Nepal (The Kathmandu Post/ANN) - Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli announced a jumbo Cabinet with 30 ministries in a move to appease coalition partners.

Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s decisions to slice and dice ministries “on a whim” to appease coalition partners are likely to become an albatross around his neck, as his own party, the CPN-UML, is preparing to grill him during party’s meeting.

PM Oli while expanding his Cabinet on Thursday (December 24), for the fourth time, inducted four ministers and six state ministers and divided ministries, taking the strength of the Cabinet to 40 and number of ministries to 30.

Brushing aside criticism from several quarters, Prime Minister Oli again on Friday split two ministries “to adjust the fringe parties” that have extended support to his government.

Prime Minister Oli is currently leading the third largest Cabinet and largest number of ministries in history.
Even Oli’s coalition partners, including the UCPN (Maoist), have criticised his move of splitting and doling out ministries.

A section of leaders in the UML, mainly those loyal to party’s senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal, believes Prime Minister Oli’s recent moves have done no good to the party’s image.

“Whatever the prime minister is doing has not helped to build party’s image,” said party Spokesperson Yogesh Bhattarai, who is close to Nepal.

“Instead, it has ruined our hard-earned popularity. We will raise this issue in the party meeting whenever he calls it,” Bhattarai added.

Prime Minister Oli’s decisions also violate constitutional provision that calls for limiting the number of ministries to 25.

The Administrative Reform Recommendation Committee in April had also suggested that the government limit the number of ministries to 18.

“We have suggested that the government reduce the number of ministries to 18 before formally adopting the federal set-up and fix 12 ministries in the centre in the federal set-up to make service delivery efficient and avoid duplication of work division,” said Kashi Raj Dahal, chairman of Administrative Court, who also headed a committee formed to asses relevance of current ministries.

New ministries, according to PM Oli’s aides, were created to address the demands of coalition partners.

After the CPN (Samyukta), one of the coalition partners with three lawmakers, withdrew support for the government four days ago, Oli, who is backed by 15 parties in Parliament, Oli thought giving ministerial berths to fringe parties was the only way to get fringe parties’ support, according to his aides.

PM Oli, who has admitted that forming a jumbo Cabinet is a mistake, however, has tried to justify his decisions, saying “special circumstances”. But the justification cuts no ice with party leaders.

“Whatever the prime minister has done in recent days cannot be considered as good decisions,” said another UML leader Rabindra Adhikari, adding, “Increasing the number of ministers and splitting ministries is not a good decision at all. The government should have focused more on other issues, including easing fuel supply.”

The UCPN (Maoist), a key coalition partner in the government, has even warned of withdrawing its support “if PM Oli continues to take decisions unilaterally”. Describing PM Oli’s move as “irresponsible” and “wrong”, Maoist leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha has asked PM Oli to abide by the constitutional provision.

“If PM thinks that UCPN (M) will support to anything he does, he is quite wrong,” Shrestha had tweeted after Oli’s decision to create more ministries. He said in the tweet that the Maoist party “cannot remain silent”.