Rising daughter adds to Nepal’s cabinet chaos

June 4th, 2009 - 4:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Sheikh Hasina Kathmandu, June 4 (IANS) She has been likened to India’s Indira Gandhi and Bangladesh’s Sheikh Hasina.
However, the rise of Sujata Koirala, Nepal’s first daughter, has now added to the chaos confounding the fledgling cabinet of new Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal.

Sujata, daughter of former premier Girija Prasad Koirala, has set the cat among the pigeons in her and her father’s Nepali Congress (NC) party with her father nominating her to lead the party in the new government.

On Thursday, nine days after the Nepal cabinet struggled to induct more ministers from its allies, the NC finally forwarded six names.

These are Sujata, former foreign minister Prakash Sharan Mahat, and lawmakers Minendra Rizal, Purna Kumar Sherma, Bal Krishna Khand and Umakant Chaudhury.

However, the quarrels - both within the major parties as well as with the ruling party - continued to hold up the formal expansion of the cabinet and even the allocation of portfolios.

While Sujata is tipped to get the foreign ministry, the NC too floundered to get its act together after other senior leaders overtaken by the first daughter dug their heels in.

Koirala’s cousin and former faithful Sushil Koirala as well as another confidant, former deputy PM Ram Chandra Poudel, Thursday turned down their leader’s call for dialogue after Sujata was chosen by her father to lead his party in the new cabinet.

Sujata, a former student of India’s Visva Bharati and the Patha Bhavan school in Shantiniketan, had been minister without portfolio in the Prime Minister’s Office when her father was prime minister.

The 55-year-old, who, like Indira Gandhi, was very close to her father and was asked to intercede with India to obtain his release when Koirala was jailed during a pro-democracy movement in Nepal, would keep the Koirala presence alive in Nepal’s politics.

Two more members of the clan - known as the Kennedys of Nepal - are also in the race. They are Shekhar Koirala, the nephew favoured and promoted by Koirala, and Shashank Koirala, another nephew, who is the son of B.P. Koirala, Nepal’s first elected prime minister.

Shashank Koirala was the only Koirala to win the election last year that saw Sujata, Sushil and Shekhar defeated.

Shekhar, however, was fielded in a bye-election this year and won.

Besides the NC, the other major ally of the government, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum is also witnessing infighting, which has contributed to the expansion of the cabinet.

Its two top leaders, former foreign minister Upendra Yadav and former physical planning and works minister Bijay Kumar Gachhedar are jousting with each other to lead the party in the cabinet amidst fears that the regional party would eventually split.

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