Upper House berth certain for Bamdev Gautam


The nine-member Secretariat of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) today decided to send party Vice-chair Bamdev Gautam to the National Assembly. The ruling party’s decision dashes Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada’s hope of getting nominated to the Upper House for the second time and to retain the finance portfolio in the KP Sharma Oli-led government.

Technically, the PM can again ask Khatiwada to resign and reappoint him as a minister for six more months, but such a decision would not go well with Oli-baiters in NCP, as the PM had already made Khatiwada the finance minister for six months though he was not a member of the federal Parliament.

As per the constitutional provision, a person can become a minister for six months but s/he must become a federal lawmaker if s/ he wants to continue to hold the ministerial portfolio.

Oli, who has promised to abide by the party’s decisions, will now have to implement the decision and sacrifice Khatiwada, his preferred choice for finance portfolio.

The NCP secretariat had earlier also decided to send Gautam to the NA, but Oli had not implemented the party’s decision. Fearing intra-party protest, the PM did not proceed with getting Khatiwada nominated by the president to the NA.

This time, Oli is unlikely to resist the party’s decision. In that case, the government will have to recommend that President Bidhya Devi Bhandari appoint Gautam as an NA member.

The president appoints three members to the NA on recommendation of the Council of Ministers.

She has already nominated two members to the NA.

The president had nominated Khatiwada to the NA in 2018, but his two-year term ended in March.

The PM, who was earlier reluctant to make Gautam an NA member, agreed to make him a member of the Upper House perhaps as a sign of gratitude since Gautam had recently floated a proposal that had helped Oli neutralise rivals within the party who had sought his resignation from the post of PM or party co-chair.

Gautam had contested for the House of Representatives from his home district of Bardiya in the last general election but was defeated by Nepali Congress candidate Sanjay Kumar Gautam.

Meanwhile, constitutional expert Bhimarjun Acharya said the NCP did the right thing by not recommending Khatiwada to the National Assembly, as there was no provision in the constitution to renominate a person to the NA within one tenure of the Upper House.

“Spirit of the constitution does not allow a person to become a member of the NA twice within one tenure,” he added.

“There is a principle in law that if you cannot do something directly, you cannot do that indirectly as well. It is morally wrong to make Gautam a member of the NA ,” he added.

Acharya, however, said as per Article 78 of the constitution, Gautam, who had lost HoR election, would not be eligible to become a minister.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on September 4, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.