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NC, Maoist Center agree to reshuffle cabinet, Home and Finance to swap

Sagar Neupane

Sagar Neupane

 |  Kathmandu

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal (left) and Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba. (File Photo)

The ruling Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Center) have inched closer to an understanding of reshuffling cabinet members and selecting a new chairman of the National Assembly.

The understanding was reached in the meeting held between Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' and Nepali Congress Vice President and Defense Minister Purna Bahadur Khadka on Wednesday evening.

According to the gentleman agreement, all the cabinet ministers will be replaced by new ones by March 4, the Prime Minister's secretariat members told Nepalkhabar. Prime Minister has asked for a new name list of the ministers within a week, accordingly.

He is making preparations to change the entire cabinet. According to the agreement, the NC will take over the Home Ministry and the Maoist Center will lead the Finance Ministry.

"There has been an agreement to replace all the ministers with new ones but the Prime Minister by March 3," two members of the Prime Minister's secretariat told Nepalkhabar.

"The Prime Minister asked all the coalition partners for the name list of the new ministers within a week," a member of the Prime Minister's secretariat said, "The Prime Minister is set to reshuffle the cabinet. The NC's decision is awaited."

Prime Minister Dahal is scheduled to address a parliament meeting on March 4. As things stand, the cabinet will be reshuffled before the Prime Minister's address to the parliament on March 4, leaders said.

"The NC agreed to the Prime Minister's plan to reshuffle the cabinet," a cabinet member said, "The Prime Minister will remain busy on March 1 and 2. The decision is likely on March 2."

Though the NC floated a proposal to reshuffle the cabinet only the investment convention scheduled for April 28 and 29, the Prime Minister does not want to wait for two months.

 Khadka said that the NC would not be an obstacle to the reformation of the cabinet if the Prime Minister is willing to do so.

"We will finalize the new name list by holding a meeting with the President and the general secretaries and provide the name list of new ministers," a member quoted Khadka as telling the Prime Minister.

"The cabinet will be reformed. The Prime Minister has asked the coalition parties for the name list. The entire cabinet will reshuffled," he said.

The Prime Minister's Press Advisor Govinda Acharya has confirmed that the name-list has been asked informally for the reformation of the cabinet.

Min Bishwakarma, the head of the publicity department of the Nepali Congress, said the discussions were underway for the cabinet reformation.

"It would be early to say that the Home Ministry and Finance Ministry will swapped," said Bishwakarma, "The leaders are holding talks on the reformation of the cabinet."

The Maoist Center is unhappy with some agendas raised by the NC in its Mahasamiti meeting, the election loss in the Koshi Province in the National Assembly elections.

This was the reason why the standing committee meeting of the Maoist Center which concluded on Friday decided to file candidacy for the post of chairman of the National Assembly.

Having presumed that the Maoist Center will cooperate with the opposition CPN (UML), the NC has also hinted that it will give up its claim for the chairman in the National Assembly.

"Whatever is agreed upon, will be done," Bishwakarma added, "we will not let problems crop up in the alliance, the responsible NC will take a responsible decision."

Maoist Center's decision exerts pressure
The NC is trying not to spoil the atmosphere, shaken by the Maoist decision to nominate a candidate for the chairman of the National Assembly.

The establishment side of the NC has intensified the meetings with the Maoist Center so as not to put the future of the alliance in jeopardy.

The Prime Minister's personnel secretary Ramesh Malla said that the discussion was heading in a positive direction.

"It cannot be said that a consensus has been reached," Malla asserted, "but continued discussions will lead to a conclusion."

Prime Minister Prachanda wanted to reshuffle the cabinet. However, he was forced to stop when the NC did not agree to it.

The NC did not agree to change the ministers on the pretext of the National Assembly election on January 25 and the Mahasamiti meeting on February 19-22. Besides, the NC was adamant that all the ministers should not be changed.

However, after the Maoist Center formally decided to run for the National Assembly Chairman on Wednesday, the Prime Minister's Secretariat believes that the NC is willing to cooperate with Prime Minister Prachanda's plan.

According to the agreement reached on Wednesday, the Congress is ready to remove all the ministers in the government and send new ones. There are nine NC ministers in the government led by Prachanda.

"All the ministers except the Prime Minister will be changed," the source added, "the alliance parties will discuss within their parties about sending new ministers."

Bishwakarma, the head of the NC Publicity Department, said that the cabinet would be reshuffled, but did not want to reveal the date.

NC ready to change all the ministers
While the tug-of-war of ministerial reshuffling is going on, the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) is investigating Health and Population Minister Mohan Bahadur Basnet in the Teramox purchase case.

The leaders say that the Congress has concluded that it is more appropriate to support the Prime Minister's proposal to reshuffle the ministers than to face prosecution through the incumbent minister.

Earlier, the NC had said that it was not willing to give up the Finance Ministry. However, after all the ministers are going to be changed, the NC is ready to leave the Finance Ministry as well.

Physical Infrastructure and Transport Minister Prakash Jwala has been found guilty in the shooting incident that killed two persons in Balkumari.

Prime Minister Prachanda has given Law Minister Dhanraj Gurung and Energy Minister Shakti Bahadur Basnet to study the report after the investigation committee found them guilty.

They will submit the findings of the study to the Prime Minister on March 3

Coalition parties the Maoist Center, the CPN (United Socialist), and the Janata Samajbadi Party were ready to recall all the ministers and send new ones in two months ago.



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