Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Prime Minister reshuffles cabinet, Poudel becomes finance minister

 Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli reshuffled the cabinet and adding three minister in the vacant ministries.

The Prime Minister appointed Bishnu Poudel as new finance minister, whereas deputy prime minister and defence minister Ishwar Pokhrel has been removed from Defence Ministry and appointed to the minister for Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministries. But he is still the deputy prime minister. Prime Minister Oli has kept the Defence Ministry portfolio with himself.

The Finance Ministry, which was with Oli since Dr Yub Raj Khatiwada resigned earlier this month, has been given to Poudel, who is also the general secretary of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP). Poudel will face huge challenges as finance minister in the time of crisis. But could Poudel dare to provide any remedy – facing from within the populist-party dictum – for employment creation, low morale of private sector and battered economy. However, by appointing Poudel as finance minister the ‘politically-smart’ Prime Minister ensured his majority in his party’s secretariat. As the Prime Minister Oli reshueffled the cabinet for his own benefit, his promises that a reshuffle in his administration will be ‘based on merit, system and performance’, has seen as his other promises.

Likewise, Pokhrel also faces criticism for failing to handle the Covid-19 pandemic as the coordinator of the High-level Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre. He also faces corruption allegations in the medical equipment procurement.

The Prime Minister has also appointed Parbat Gurung – who was minister for children, women and senior citizens – as minister for communication and information technology.

Pokhrel’s removal from the Defence Ministry is largely guided by his ‘not-so-good’ relations with the Nepal Army as he dragged the national defence force into controversy over the procurement of medical equipment to fight Covid-19.

The other faces in the cabinet include Krishna Gopal Shrestha as the minister for Urban Development and Lilanath Shrestha as the minister for women, children and senior citizens. Shrestha had once switched sides to Nepal briefly but this time he is rewarded for glorifying Prime Minister Oli.

Likewise, Lilanath Shrestha had contested against Pushpa Kamal Dahal from Siraha Constituency 5 in the 2013 Constituent Assembly (CA) elections from then CPN-UML but had lost by a small margin. Shrestha and Raghubir Mahaseth are the only two leaders, who won the elections for former UML in Province 2.

The cabinet reshuffle is going to start a new feud in the ruling as the another chair of the ruling party Puspa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal faction have been asking the Prime Minister to reshuffle the cabinet according to the recommendation of the party secretariat, but the Prime Minister reshuffled the cabinet on his own. Even party chairmen Oli and Dahal held a two-hour-long meeting on cabinet reshuffle today afternoon. The cabinet reshuffle is the Prime Minister’s prerogative, where the party has been unnecessarily trying to encroach his rights. 

“Dahal is not happy with the prime minister’s move,” according to a leader close to Dahal. “He has been trying to convince Oli for a Cabinet reshuffle as per the spirit of the recent decisions of party meetings,” the leader said, adding that Oli did not even discuss his plan to rejing the Cabinet.

Dahal had long been pressing Oli to recall all ministers and make fresh appointments based on merit and performance.

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