Protocol row casts shadow over Cabinet that met last on Mar 16

Kathmandu, April 3

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has not been able to hold Cabinet meeting for almost three weeks, apparently due to a seniority row between his two deputies — Bimalendra Nidhi and Kamal Thapa.

The delay has affected some crucial decisions, including appointment of Inspector General of Police in the run-up to the local level elections slated for May 14.

The protocol row between the two deputy prime ministers was the main reason behind the delayed Cabinet meeting, at least two Cabinet ministers confirmed to The Himalayan Times, seeking anonymity.

Besides, indecision over who to choose the next IGP after the Supreme Court quashed Jaya Bahadur Chand’s appointment for the post is also a factor for delaying the Cabinet meeting, another minister told this daily.

The prime minister held the last Cabinet meeting on March 16. Keeping in view the tradition of holding meeting of Council of Ministers on Thursdays and Mondays, the Cabinet should have met at least five times during this period.

The protocol dispute between the two DPMs came to the fore when the PM went off to China for a week-long visit from March 23-29. The PM flew to China without getting his visit endorsed by the Cabinet or naming the acting prime minister.

The row resurfaced when the PM returned from China, as Nidhi skipped an appearance with Thapa to receive the PM at Tribhuvan International Airport.

The PM chose not to designate any of his deputies as acting PM after both Nidhi and Thapa threatened to quit the government if not given the responsibility of acting premiership, claimed a source close to PM Dahal.

While responding to a query during a talk show — Pradhanmantri Sanga Sidha Kura on Saturday — the PM claimed that the row over protocol and appointment of IGP would be settled in the next Cabinet meeting.

Earlier, when the PM went to India in mid-September and in mid-October he had designated DPM Nidhi as the acting PM. Then, Thapa, as chairman of the then Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal, was in the opposition. Following merger of RPP-N and Rastriya Prajatantra Party in November, Thapa became chairman of the unified party and joined the government as deputy prime minister and minister for federal affairs and local development on March 9. Thapa was deputy prime minister and foreign minister during the erstwhile KP Sharma Oli-led government. Nidhi was appointed DPM for the first time when the Dahal-led coalition government was formed in August.

Ministry for Industry Nabindra Raj Joshi, who represents NC in the Cabinet, opined that in a coalition government seniority should not be the sole basis for determining acting prime minister. He said the acting PM should be from the largest party other than the PM’s party.