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Nepal’s ruling alliance in trouble after youth leader threatens to quit

KATHMANDU: The Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP), one of the key partners in Nepal’s seven-party ruling alliance, has threatened to pull out of the government if it is not allocated the home ministry portfolio, sources said.

In a meeting with Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda on Sunday evening, RSP Chairman Rabi Lamichhane conveyed his party’s position that his party will be forced to quit the government if the home ministry portfolio is not given to his party.

RSP Chairman Lamichhane was serving as the home minister until Friday before the country’s Supreme Court annulled his citizenship certificate on the ground that that he never applied to reclaim his Nepali citizenship after renouncing his American citizenship.

With the apex court’s ruling, Lamichhane lost his parliamentary and ministerial positions. He submitted his resignation to the prime minister on the same day.

With the exit of Lamichhane as the home minister, Prime Minister Prachanda himself is overseeing the home ministry.

Until Sunday evening, Prachanda has not appointed anyone in place of Lamichhane. However, the speculations are rife that Prime Minister Prachanda will appoint someone else as the home minister from his party, thus barring the RSP from taking the home ministry portfolio.

Amid this, Lamichhane met with Prime Minister Prachanda on Sunday and categorically said that his party would recall his ministers from the cabinet and withdraw support to the ruling alliance if the RSP is not given the home ministry portfolio.

Mukul Dhakal, a spokesperson for the RSP, said that the party will reclaim the post of the home minister.

“There should not be any question regarding who should be given the home ministry portfolio. It is because the ministerial portfolio has already been allocated to the RSP and only the RSP can decide on the matter,” Dhakal told India Narrative.

On a question whether the RSP will quit the government if the home ministry portfolio is not given to his party again, he said “Yes.”

Meanwhile, Lamichhane regained his citizenship from the local administration in Kathmandu on Sunday by completing required government procedures. A meeting of the RSP also re-appointed Lamichhane as the party president today afternoon.

With Lamichhane regaining the citizenship certificate, he or someone else from his party is eying for the post of home minister.

Why RSP’s support important for Prachanda?

Support from the RSP, the third largest force in the ruling alliance, is crucial for Prachanda as it maintains 20 seats in the 275-member strong House of Representatives. It will be a huge setback to the fragile government led by Prachanda if the party quits the government.

Currently, the coalition government has a comfortable majority in parliament with the backing of 169 lawmakers. If the RSP leaves the government, Prachanda’s government will have the support of 149 lawmakers. Even if that happens, the government will not still be in minority, but lacks comfortable majority from within the ruling alliance.

However, Prachanda’s government will not immediately be in danger. It is because, the Nepali Congress, largest party in parliament, has also lent support to Prime Minister Prachanda. But the NC is not part of the government.

(Santosh Ghimire is India Narrative’s Nepal correspondent based in Kathmandu)