KATHMANDU, April 4: Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has been unable to convene a cabinet meeting for three weeks due to a hierarchy row between two of the deputy prime ministers.
The last cabinet meeting was held on March 16, a week after Dahal appointed Rastriya Prajatantra Party Chairman Kamal Thapa as another deputy prime minister. Following a row between Deputy Prime Minister Bimalendra Nidhi of Nepali Congress and RPP’s Thapa over hierarchy in the seating arrangements at the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Dahal flew off to China for a week without first getting his visit endorsed by the cabinet.
Narayan Dahal, the prime minister’s administrative advisor, admitted that the reason for not convening the cabinet for three weeks was none other than the hierarchy dispute.
“The main reason behind not convening the cabinet meeting is the hierarchy dispute between the two deputy prime ministers. This has created unnecessary stress for the prime minister,” Dahal told Republica.
Nidhi has been staking a claim to seniority in hierarchy over Thapa, stating that his party is the major ruling coalition partner. Thapa for his part claims that there is a tradition of according seniority in hierarchy to a former deputy prime minister. Another deputy prime minister, Krishna Bahadur Mahara of the Dahal-led CPN (Maoist Center) party, is silent in the dispute.
According to advisor Dahal, one deputy prime minister has been threatening to bring down the Dahal government if he is not given the seniority in the 45-member council of minsters. The government may collapse if the party of either of the two disputing deputy prime ministers withdraws its support.
“The prime minister has been negotiating with the two leaders through informal channels. We hope the row will end at some point with either one of the two softening his stance,” said Dahal.
Prime Minister Dahal used to convene a cabinet meeting every Thursday. Due to the dispute, the government has not been able to take decisions on crucial issues at a time when the local polls are fast approaching.
“This is unfortunate for the country. Not holding cabinet meetings for so long due to a minor row would only show that the country can run even without a government,” said former chief secretary Bimal Koirala. He further said that prolonging the dispute could have grave consequences.
Sources also claim that Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Nidhi has been irked with Dahal after he favored Thapa in the seniority row. Recently, a rift has surfaced between the prime minister and Nidhi’s party over whether or not to hold the local polls in two phases to bring the agitating Madhes-based parties on board. Dahal is flexible over postponing the local polls for a few days in some Madhes districts. But NC President Sher Bahadur is against any postponement, the sources said. NC and the Maoist Center have an understanding on handing over the government to Deuba after the local polls are held by the Dahal government on May 14. Dahal and Deuba are also disputing over the appointment of a new chief of Nepal Police after the Supreme Court annulled the appointment of Jaya Bahadur Chand last month.