Prachanda finally expands cabinet amid media boycott, curfew

August 31st, 2008 - 8:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Aug 31 (IANS) Thirteen days after he took oath of office as republic Nepal’s first prime minister, Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” Sunday finally expanded his fledgling cabinet, inducting 15 new ministers. Journalists boycotted the oath-taking ceremony.With Sunday’s induction, Nepal’s first Maoist-led government becomes a coalition of six parties with 24 ministers, including the premier.

The new government came into being amidst strife. Prachanda was unable to name his cabinet on Aug 18, when he was sworn in by President Ram Baran Yadav.

Subsequently, the second-largest party in the alliance, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), locked horns with the Maoists over seniority and threatened to sit in opposition unless they were given the post of deputy prime minister.

Finally, in an unprecedented move in Nepal’s history, the parties decided to have three deputy prime ministers from the three major parties: the Maoists, the UML and the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF).

After the UML, it was the turn of the Maoists themselves to fight over the ministries, which caused the cabinet expansion to be postponed to Sunday from last Friday.

Prachanda’s jaunt to Beijing to attend the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games also put the induction of new ministers on hold.

Now finally, the coalition government also has the participation of three minor allies: People’s Front Nepal, Communist Party of Nepal (United) and Terai party Sadbhavana Party.

The Maoists have 10 ministries, while the UML has six, the MJF four, and the three fringe parties one each. There are four women, two from the Maoists, one from the communists and one from the MJF.

Another Terai party, the Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party, declined the invitation to join the government but said it would support Prachanda on the basis of issues.

Former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress (NC), the second largest party, also refused to join a Maoist-led government, and said it would sit in opposition.

A note of discord marred Sunday’s oath-taking ceremony with journalists, who had been waiting in the sun and rain for hours outside the presidential office, being refused admission, which led to their boycott of the swearing-in ceremony.

A second disharmonious note was struck in south Nepal’s Dhankuta district, where the district administration imposed indefinite curfew in some areas after a clash between the youth wings of the UML and the dnaindia.comMaoists.

Now with a full-fledged government, Prachanda needs to move fast to reassure Nepalis as well as international community that the Maoists’ militant Youth Communist League will be reined in and law and order restored.

He also needs to address on a war-footing the devastation floods have caused in Terai. Over 100,000 people have been rendered homeless in Nepal and over two million in India’s Bihar state.

The new government has to resolve the food and fuel crisis, integrate the Maoist army with the state army in six months and see the completion of a new constitution within two years.

Addressing an economic summit Friday morning, Prachanda said his government would now focus on ushering in an economic revolution.

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