Nepal PM swears in eight new ministers

June 4th, 2009 - 10:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, June 4 (IANS) Ten days after he became Nepal’s new prime minister, replacing Maoist premier Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, communist leader Madhav Kumar Nepal Thursday finally expanded his three-member cabinet with eight new ministers from three more parties.
Bitter infighting in the major parties held up the expansion of the cabinet and there was growing pressure from India and other foreign governments for the parties to get their act together.

However, while eight ministers were administered oath of office and secrecy at a ceremony by Nepal in the presence of President Ram Baran Yadav at the presidential palace, only two have been given portfolios.

The rest will be announced later.

The Nepali Congress (NC), the biggest party in parliament after the Maoists, has sent full ministers. They are headed by Sujata Koirala, the 55-year-old daughter of former prime minister and NC president Girija Prasad Koirala.

Sujata becomes the new foreign minister of Nepal amidst dissent by senior leaders in her own party, including her uncle Sushil Koirala.

The other five NC ministers are Prakash Sharan Mahat, a former minister of state for foreign affairs, Bal Krishna Khand, former minister of state for education, Umakant Chaudhuri, former assistant minister for agriculture and cooperatives, Minendra Rijal, an NC lawmaker and former party spokesman, and Purna Kumar Sharma, a senior leader from eastern Nepal.

The Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, the largest regional party whose support was crucial for the formation of the government, has sent its parliamentary party leader Bijay Kumar Gachhedar, who is now the vice prime minister.

A minor left party, the Communist Party of Nepal-Marxist-Leninist, also sent a single member, Dambar Shrestha.

Nepal’s own party, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, failed to send additional members though its standing committee met during the day in a bid to make the nominations.

Besides Nepal, the party currently has two ministers: Vidya Devi Bhandari, who holds defence, and Surendra Nath Pandey, who has been given finance.

Three more parties - the Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party, Sadbhavana Party and Rastriya Prajatantra Party - are also expected to join the cabinet in future.

The expansion comes a day after the 22 parties allied for the new government finally succeeded in thrashing out a common minimum programme.

The Maoists, the former ruling party now sitting in opposition, have given the new government three months.

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