Almost a week after Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba formed his cabinet, the ministers' council has yet to convene a single meeting. The regulation was amended after King Gyanendra assumed executive powers post-October Fourth and requires all cabinet decisions to have his approval.
The UML has said it will join the government only after the third time prime minister scraps that amendment and regains executive powers. However, a senior official told us that only the king can cancel the amendment. Now there are conflicting reports emerging from Deuba's camp: one minister says the first meeting of the ministers' council may bring up the amendment while another source says the prime minister will not hold the meeting without first consulting the king.
Deuba is under pressure from his own party, the Nepali Congress (Democratic) and the UML to scrap the regulation for the duty execution of the ministers' council. He knows that if the first meeting of the ministers' council does not do so, it will send the wrong signal.
The meeting was scheduled for last Monday. The chief secretary and other government officials waited for the prime minister and his cabinet to arrive at 9AM, but no one turned up even at the end of the work day. With the cabinet meeting yet to take place, more than a dozen files containing important government work is pending at the cabinet secretariat.
Normally, cabinet meetings take place on the day the ministers' council is formed. But last Thursday, when Deuba named two of his cabinet colleagues, they were occupied with the swearing-in ceremony. "That is why the initial plan was to hold the meeting on Friday," says a source close to the prime minister. "But Deuba later said the meeting would take place on Monday." The regular cabinet meetings take place on Mondays and Fridays.
The last cabinet meeting took place almost a month-and-a-half ago under Surya Bahadur Thapa. It issued the ordinance on the royal palace expenditure and decided on the appointment of joint secretaries. It was an informal meeting that took place at the prime minister's official residence. Deuba's close aides have confirmed that the amended regulation for the duty execution of the ministers' council was the main hitch. Deuba's own party and the UML will comprehend that he holds no executive powers if he fails to challenge the amendment.