| Maoist MPs Dev Gurung (left) and Krishna Bahadur Mahara enjoy a lighter moment at the Parliament in Kathmandu on Wednesday. (AFP)
Kathmandu, Jan. 17: The next deputy Prime Minister of Nepal will be a Maoist.
However, there may be more than one deputy Prime Minister, with the Maoist nominee being designated senior deputy Prime Minister.
This became clear today when Subash Nemwang of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) was unanimously elected Speaker of the Interim Parliament.
He was also the Speaker of the previous Parliament which dissolved itself on January 15.
The Maoists were demanding the post of Speaker or deputy Prime Minister. They have settled for the latter.
However, the Maoists may not get their nominee to be the sole deputy Prime Minister. For that, Prime Minister G.P. Koirala’s condition was that it would have to be either Prachanda or Baburam Bhattarai and not one of the junior leaders.
With Prachanda’s refusal, there was pressure on Bhattarai to join the government although he denied this. “There is no question of pressure. The Prime Minister has requested one of us to join the cabinet and we have respectfully declined,” he told The Telegraph earlier.
Explaining why he was not keen to join as deputy Prime Minister, the Maoist leader said: “Our understanding is that while one section of our leaders will go to Parliament, the other will mobilise the people for the Constituent Assembly election. But yes, the Prime Minister has made an offer.” Bhattarai said that after every conflict is resolved there is a formal power-sharing agreement.
“We have not had any such power sharing agreement. We have only decided that of the three big political parties — the Nepali Congress, the UML and us — one gets the Prime Minister’s post, the other the Speaker’s and the third gets the deputy Prime Ministership. We have also divided the numbers of posts for each in the cabinet,” he explained.
The Maoists are keen on nominating the leader of their parliamentary group Krishna Bahadur Mahara for the post of deputy Prime Minister. Should that happen, it is learnt that he would not be the sole deputy Prime Minister.
Koirala is believed to have told people that the world visibly recognises only two Maoist leaders — Prachanda and Bhattarai — and if one of them joined as his deputy, that alone would increase the legitimacy of the government.
A source close to the Maoists, however, said that the two leaders were being advised by their comrades and sympathisers not to join.
“The Maoists have to transform themselves from a militant movement into a political organisation which can contest the Constituent Assembly elections effectively.
“Who can build the party structure in every district and settle differences that might crop up within the party better than Prachanda and Bhattarai' So why should they join the government' It is more important to do well in the Constituent Assembly elections,” a close associate of Bhattarai explained.
After a marathon meeting of the Eight-Party Alliance, which includes the Maoists, at the Prime Minister’s official residence at Baluwatar this morning, it was decided to continue with Subash Nemwang as Speaker. “He has proved to be a fair and objective Speaker. He is a lawyer and from the Janjatis. It is only right that he should continue,” said a Nepali Congress leader.
When the Interim Legislature met this afternoon, it was none other than the leader of the Maoists in Parliament Krishna Bhadur Mahara who proposed Nemwang for the post of Speaker. This was accepted unanimously with a voice vote.
After the election, senior Maoist leader Dev Gurung wished Nemwang a “successful tenure as Speaker”. Describing the past Parliament as a place to indulge in “meaningless debates”, he hoped that the Interim Parliament would play an effective role in building a “New Nepal.”
With the UML getting the post of the Speaker, the speculation is that the Maoists might accept senior deputy Prime Minister’s post for Mahara. Whether this arrangement would be acceptable to others in the alliance is unclear.