Warring Nepal Maoists finally name ministers

March 4th, 2011 - 2:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, March 4 (IANS) After a protracted battle with their ruling ally, followed by fierce wrangling within its own top leaders, Nepal’s Maoist party Friday finally announced the names of four ministers from its own ranks, saying they would be sworn in by the evening.

“We have decided to send our representatives to the government under the leadership of Krishna Bahadur Mahara,” Maoist spokesman Dinanath Sharma said after a meeting of the party’s top guns Friday.

Sharma said Mahara would head the information and communications ministry with three more Maoist ministers in the fledgling cabinet of Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal.

They are: Maoist MP Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, who gets the coveted physical planning and works ministry, Barsha Man Pun Ananta, who from being former deputy chief of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will now become peace and reconstruction minister, and Khadga Bahadur Bishwokarma, who gets tourism and civil aviation.

While Bishwokarma is from the Dalit community, there are no women in the first lot despite the parties’ pledge that women would be given 33 percent representation in all spheres.

Though Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda and communist premier Khanal agreed that the Maoists would get 11 ministries, the former guerrillas have been floundering for nearly a week to name their men, thanks to a bitter row between Prachanda and his two deputies.

The deputies, Baburam Bhattarai and Mohan Vaidya, reportedly favoured another senior leader over Mahara but were overruled by Prachanda.

Khanal, who won the prime ministerial election Feb 3 due to Maoist support, has still been functioning with just three ministers from his own party with two of them yet to be allocated ministries.

The deadlock stemmed from the Maoists claiming the key home affairs ministry but the prime minister’s party opposing it saying the former rebels would then withdraw all criminal cases against their cadres.

The row has now been temporarily resolved by the prime minister conceding the peace and reconstruction ministry to the Maoists, which would allow them control over the contentious issue of their guerrilla army.

Nearly 20,000 PLA fighters are still living in cantonments with the Maoists refusing to demobilise them. The former guerrillas want the fighters to be recruited into the national army while the other parties are opposing the proposal, saying the “politically indoctrinated” PLA can’t be trusted in the army.

Mahara returns to power despite being involved in a vote-buying scandal last year. He was taped during a phone conversation, seeking money from a businessman in China to buy MPs’ support for Prachanda for the prime ministerial election.

The endless fights over power-sharing have insidiously eaten into the one-year lifeline thrown to the parties to draft a new constitution by May 28.

Now there are only 84 days left, making it an almost impossible mission.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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