Nepal gets new 3-member communist cabinet (Lead)May 25th, 2009 - 3:15 pm ICT by IANS
By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 25 (IANS) Veteran communist leader Madhav Kumar Nepal dispensed with god but kept the traditional Nepali attire Monday to take oath of office and secrecy at the head of a fledgling three-member cabinet, which his rivals warned would last only three months.
The 56-year-old, whose first job was a cashier’s at a bank, is now officially republican Nepal’s second prime minister, succeeding Maoist supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda and assuming the herculean task of drafting a new constitution by next year.
Wearing the daura suruwal - the traditional loose pants and long shirt that was obligatory during King Gyanendra’s rule but gave way to the western suit after the restoration of democracy in 2006 - the veteran politician was sworn in by President Ram Baran Yadav, in a brief ceremony in Rastrapati Bhawan, the presidential office, at 11.10 a.m. local time.
Like his predecessor Prachanda, Nepal declined to take the oath of office and secrecy in the name of god. He simply said: “I take the oath”.
The new premier then administered the oath to his tiny cabinet of two. Both the ministers are from his own party, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML).
While Surendra Pandey is a trusted lieutenant, Bidya Devi Bhandari is the widow of charismatic UML leader Madan Bhandari, who died in a car crash in 1993. Their portfolios however have yet not been decided.
Though a three-week impasse following the fall of the Maoist government finally ended, there were signs of continuing internal turmoil.
Two of Nepal’s key coalition partners - the Nepali Congress and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum - have still not been able to finalise their list of ministers. The Forum is grappling with a potential split in its own files and ranks over joining the government.
The Maoists dismissed the government as a puppet propped up by India and said its days were numbered.
Senior Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai said the communist-led coalition government will not last beyond three months.
While the former rebels have said they would boycott the new government, they decided to maintain decorum and sent their deputy chief in parliament, Narayan Kaji Shrestha, to attend the swearing-in.
The ceremony was also attended by senior government officials, politicians, diplomats based in Kathmandu and army officials, including army chief Gen Rookmangud Katawal.
The previous Maoist government had collapsed after a row with the UML and other allies over sacking the army chief.
Nepal, who had spent 16 years underground when political parties were banned in the country, said his priority would be to complete the peace process and write a new constitution in time. His government, he said, will also restore law and order and address people’s aspirations.
A commerce graduate and a former deputy prime minister as well as foreign minister, the new office resurrects the political career of a man who was compelled to quit as party chief last year after losing the election from two constituencies.
Nepal has also pledged to maintain good relations with all foreign governments, including India and China, and not in indulge in any blame game, unlike the Maoist government.
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