All Nepal ministers jump into poll fray

March 22nd, 2008 - 10:36 am ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, March 22 (IANS) As Nepal gears up for its first constituent assembly elections next month, the nation will also see the unprecedented spectacle of the entire cabinet of ministers vying in the joust, with the prime minister himself leading the fray. All the 30 ministers, including Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, are taking part in the April 10 elections that will lead to the creation of a 601-member constituent assembly.

Of them, 10, including the octogenarian Koirala, Foreign Minister Sahana Pradhan, and six junior ministers, will take part in the proportional representation (PR) system that will choose 335 members.

The remaining 20 ministers, including three first-time Maoist incumbents, are vying under the first past-the-post system that will choose 240 members.

With the entire cabinet focusing on the crucial polls that will write a new constitution of Nepal and decide the fate of its nearly 250-year-old royal family, work has virtually come to a standstill in most of the ministries.

For instance, Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation Minister Prithvi Subba Gurung, has triggered a raging controversy without even being in the capital.

The communist minister, whose Communist Party of Nepal this week announced public support for Beijing’s One China policy that regards the annexed kingdom of Tibet as being an integral part of the communist republic, was reported by the state media as saying that at the request of the giant northern neighbour, Nepal had banned all expeditions to Mount Everest this summer till China took the Olympic torch to the summit of the highest peak on earth.

The minister’s reported statement triggered a controversy with mountaineers and the climbing industry registering protests. The growing protests forced the ministry subsequently to say that it had not imposed any restriction.

It remains to be seen if the Himalayan blunder will cost the minister his constituency in Lamjung in northwestern Nepal where both the Maoists and Koirala’s Nepali Congress have fielded candidates against him.

In one constituency in eastern Nepal, a minister is fighting his cabinet colleague with the odds stacked against him.

Koirala’s partyman Gyanendra Bahadur Karki, who was state minister for water resources, received a promotion and was made full minister recently though Nepal is now passing through its gravest power crisis.

With the Nepal Electricity Authority having enforced an eight-hour power outage daily, industries are closing down and investors are heading out towards India and other countries.

Karki will have to face public wrath over that in his Bhojpur constituency, which could go in favour of his peer, Padam Rai, Maoist state minister for local development.

Another minister who faces a tough fight is Education Minister Pradip Nepal from the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML). Nepal’s main rival in Kathmandu Valley is Prakash Man Singh, a former minister and the son of a national icon.

Man Singh’s father Ganesh Man Singh was the “commander” of an earlier pro-democracy movement and one of the most respected political leaders of Nepal.Besides his family legacy, Man Singh also belongs to the Newar community, the first residents of Kathmandu Valley, and Koirala’s Nepali Congress party.

Besides the current ministers, two former prime ministers are in the fray as well: Sher Bahadur Deuba, who was sacked, reinstated and sacked again by King Gyanendra in a see-saw of events, as well as Surya Bahadur Thapa, who too was nominated by the monarch.

Deuba’s battle is not only against the Maoists and the UML but his own party colleague as well.

Deuba, who was once Koirala’s prot

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