Nembang against amending charter

Kathmandu, February 24

Senior Nepal Communist Party (NCP) leader Subas Chandra Nembang and Senior Advocate Khimlal Devkota today met Madhav Kumar Nepal at Nepal’s home but Nembang said they refused to give their consent to amend the constitution to make National Assembly members eligible to become the prime minister.

Media has been abuzz with reports that Nembang and Devkota are members of the Nepal-led taskforce formed to decide on amending the constitution. However, NCP General Secretary Bishnu Paudel told THT that the party secretariat had dwelt on forming the taskforce, but didn’t decide on forming one.

NCP Vice-chair Bamdev Gautam, who lost House of Representatives election from his home district of Bardiya in the last general elections, recently told party leaders that he could accept the party’s proposal to become an NA member only if the constitution was amended to make NA members eligible to become the PM.

Party Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal had proposed to form a taskforce to decide on constitution amendment. Dahal has been trying to have his say in party matters after he recently brought majority members of the party Secretariat into his fold. Influential members of the party’s Secretariat — former prime minister Jhalanath Khanal, Madhav Kumar Nepal, Gautam and party Spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha are with Dahal. In the nine-member Secretariat, Oli has only Ishwar Pokharel and Bishnu Paudel on his side.

The taskforce fiasco doesn’t auger well for Gautam, whose attempt to make it to the HoR had failed twice due to opposition within the party.

Gautam had convinced NCP lawmaker Ramvir Manandhar, who represents Kathmandu Constituency No 7, to resign from the seat. Gautam hoped to contest by-election from the seat and win, as the victory margin for Manandhar in the last general election was huge. His attempt to get Dolpa constituency vacated so that he could contest by-election was also foiled by NCP leaders.

Political analyst Tula Narayan Shah said the proposal to amend the constitution to make NA members eligible for the PM’s post was doomed, as Gautam and his supporters didn’t have the numerical strength to get the constitution amended.

“And even if the NCP amends the constitution to make NA members eligible for the PM’s post, Nepali society will not accept it because it sends the message that the NCP is trying to amend the constitution to serve Gautam’s interest,” he said.

Another political analyst Hari Roka, however,  said NCP leaders who wanted to amend the constitution were not only concerned about serving Gautam’s interest, but were also concerned about addressing the concerns of Samajbadi Party-Nepal and Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal, who wanted to amend the constitution to strengthen federalism.

He said NCP leaders were also concerned about running the affairs of state for three to five months when Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, who is preparing to undergo kidney transplant for a second time, will be away from office to recuperate from the surgery.