Supreme Court overruled reappointment of seven former Maoist leaders as ministers: Why does it matter in current politics?

NL Today

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Kathmandu: The Supreme Court, on Thursday, issued an interim order which stated the recent reappointment of seven non-MPs as ministers by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has mentioned that PM KP Oli has violated Article 78 of the Constitution. 

What’s in the order? 

The single bench of Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher JBR issued the interim order barring non-MP ministers Ram Bahadur Thapa, Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, Lekh Raj Bhatta, Prabhu Shah, Gauri Shankar Chaudhary, Mani Thapa, and Dawa Lama from engaging in any sorts of ministerial works. 

The order has categorically stated that the non-MPs appointed as the ministers shall have to obtain the membership of the federal parliament within six months from the day of appointment and in case the appointed ministers fail to obtain the membership of parliament within six months’ time they shall not be eligible for reappointment in the ministerial positions during the tenure of the existing House of  Representatives.

In other words, the Supreme Court has said that these ministers are no longer eligible to become ministers now because they lack membership of any of the houses of parliament.

Why does it matter? 

Coincidentally, Ram Bahadur Thapa who was contesting for the National Assembly seat lost the election on the same day the Court order came out. If Thapa had won, he would most probably have been continued as the Home Minister in Oli government. 

The aforementioned seven ministers had defected to CPN-UML from Maoist Center, losing lawmakers’ positions in the process. A non-MP appointed as the minister is constitutionally required to obtain the membership of Parliament within six months of appointment. 

The big question is why did Oli reappoint them a few days ago? Did he know the appointment was unconstitutional? Or was he only paying back to those seven ‘non-MPs’ for defecting to his party? 

It should be noted that Prime Minister Oli had offered ministerial positions to the Maoist leaders to cut his then coalition rival Maoist Center down to size. Curiously, Oli stood ready to appoint non-MPs from Maoist Center as ministers for the second time while he could have managed ministerial portfolios within his party to minimize tussle.

Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali, after the CPN-UML Standing Committee meeting, said the party would abide by and implement the decision of the Supreme Court. 

The big question is why did Oli reappoint them a few days ago? Did he know the appointment was unconstitutional? Or was he only paying back to those seven ‘non-MPs’ for defecting to his party? 

The Supreme Court’s order carries a significance as it reflects the fate of Maoist-turned-UML leaders. Their alliance with KP Oli and fierce opposition of their own mother party (Maoist Center) has been seen as nothing but an opportunistic move and profit-seeking behavior. Another big question is will these leaders, including Badal,  stay in UML or return to their mother party?

Welcome verdict 

Majority of political actors as well as the general public welcomed the apex court’s order. 

  1. Fed up with the incompetence of Badal as the Home Minister, people had long rated him as nothing more than KP Oli’s yes man. That’s why the general public seems happy with the decision. 
  2. Madhav Nepal faction of CPN-UML looked equally pleased for Badal had infuriated many UML leaders, especially those belonging to Nepal faction, with his fiery rhetoric. The second generation of UML leaders used to openly share the same feeling within party mechanisms. The court order is good news for Maoist Center as well for this comes as a punishment to those seven leaders who defected. These seven men appeared like aliens coming to invade their territory to the Madhav Nepal faction. 
  3. Leaders from the Oli faction are also delighted. Soon after the court order, in a blatantly unconstitutional move, Oli asked the President to make a call for forming a new government under Article 76(5) of the constitution and the President quickly endorsed the cabinet decision, setting the deadline of 5 PM Friday. Oli is reaching out to JSPN to form the government under his leadership. He seems ready to go to any extent to bring the Mahantha Thakur-Rajendra Mahato faction on board his government. Court order on seven ministers, in that sense, will be a blessing in disguise for Oli to induct JSPN leaders in the cabinet. 

Will it help KP Oli? 

Analysts say PM KP Oli has lost nothing from the SC’s interim order. Now, he can use the ‘ministerial posts’ as a bargaining chip to save his position. To Oli, the order seems to have made it easier to negotiate for forming a new government. Surprisingly, the court has denied a stay order in a case against PM Oli for skipping some words during the swearing in. He refused to utter “commit” and moved on. 

What about Maoist leaders? 

It is obvious that vested interests and profit seeking behaviours had brought these leaders close to UML rather than political ideology. The alliance between once ‘a most  revolutionary’ Badal and his comrades and the conformist faction of UML was only unnatural. 

It is likely that the second generation leaders from UML will influence Oli to fully bypass Badal and other Maoist leaders from the party league. Further, UML cadres from central to local level have a deep sense of resentment against Maosit leaders. Prabhu Shah may seek his position in Madhesh appeasing the Madhesh-based party or even UML. But the remaining six leaders risk losing their political career at least for some time. 

Maoist leaders are the major sufferers. In the end, they belonged nowhere–neither to Maoist Center nor CPN-UML, nor do they remain MPs.