Prachanda fails to dam disputes, cabinet expansion put off

August 29th, 2008 - 7:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Aug 29 (IANS) Dogged by dispute from its very birth, the Maoist-led government of Nepal Friday failed to expand Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda’s mini cabinet with feuds now erupting in the former guerrilla party itself.Prachanda, who had fought a successful 10-year war against Nepal’s powerful royal family, however, failed for the third time in a row to stem the discord in his own party, leading to the induction of new ministers being put off till Sunday.

Earlier, it had been announced that the prime minister would Friday swear in six new ministers from his major ally, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), and five more from his own party.

The UML, who had helped Prachanda win the prime ministerial election earlier this month, had refused to join the government subsequently due to a quarrel over power-sharing.

The UML said the new government should follow the precedent set by other parties and give them, the second-largest party in the coalition government, the deputy prime minister’s post.

However, the former insurgents had been demanding the post for Prachanda’s deputy, Finance Minister Baburam Bhattarai.

An enraged UML boycotted the ceremony last Friday, in which only eight ministers from the Maoists and its other ally, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF), were sworn in, and threatened to sit in opposition.

The threat made Prachanda Thursday give in to the demand and it was decided that the next swearing-in would take place Friday after the Maoist leadership had held an internal meeting.

The central secretariat of the Maoists Friday held a four-hour meet to decide the names of the remaining ministers from its own party.

However, after disputes over communities, regions and genders, the meeting ended inconclusively.

Even the smaller parties, who were asked to send the names of their nominees, had not done so.

Friday’s fiasco shows up the rift in the Maoist party. All the other major parties, from former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress to the UML and MJF, also suffer from factionalism.

The delay in forming the full cabinet is likely to delay the drafting of a new constitution and the major task of integrating the Maoist army with the state army.

In his 11 days in power, Prachanda has already been forced thrice to defer the formation of his council of ministers.

There is already rising public criticism of the Maoist government.

Prachanda is being taken to task for having gone to Beijing to attend the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games and neglecting the series of crises in the country.

Besides the disaster caused by the floods in southern Nepal, the nation is also reeling under inflation, an acute food and fuel crunch and rapidly worsening law and order.

Prachanda’s China spree also angered southern neighbour India and created a cooling in bilateral relations.

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