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Squabbles put off Nepal's new government formation
Kathmandu | March 31, 2007 9:15:06 PM IST
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The formation of the new interim government in Nepal was shelved Saturday following squabbles over power sharing between the allies.

Even after three months of negotiations on the formation of an interim government that would be in office for three months, Nepal's ruling seven-party alliance failed to resolve differences among its constituents.

At least four parties made their dissent known on various issues.

The first dissenting note came from a deputy prime minister, who condemned the bigger parties distributing key ministries among themselves, saying his party was not consulted during the decisions.

To register protest, Amik Sherchan, chief of the fractured Leftist party People's Front that is a junior partner in the government, boycotted the meeting of the seven parties and the Maoists scheduled for Saturday morning, resulting to a long delay.

Sherchan is the present health minister as well and according to the distribution of ministries, his party gets the same ministry while the post of deputy prime ministers has been axed.

Another minor partner, the Nepal Sadbhavana Party (Anandi), has also added to the delay due to the feud between two of its top leaders.

While the party is said to have chosen Rajendra Mahato to go as its lone minister in the cabinet, the decision has stoked afresh the rivalry between Mahato and former minister Hridayesh Tripathi.

Tripathi resigned earlier this year over the unrest in the Terai plains in which over 60 people have been killed so far. Tripathi told the media that his party has differences with the government over the Terai issue.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), the second largest party in the coalition, chose veteran trade union leader Sahana Pradhan to head the party in parliament and to be the foreign minister, a selection that is said to have angered Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala.

Pradhan is well respected and has a strong personality, unlike the current foreign minister K.P. Oli, who can be made to toe Koirala's line.

The leaders are now expected to hold a meeting at 8 a.m. Sunday, before Koirala leaves for New Delhi in afternoon to take part in the 14th SAARC Summit.

Earlier, after late night parleys between the ruling alliance and the guerrillas Friday, an agreement had been reached to form a 21-member ministry initially.

Koirala will lead the new government of eight parties. It will be the octogenarian leader's fifth stint as the head of government.

While Maoist chief Prachanda will not join the ministry, his party, along with UML and Koirala's Nepali Congress, will have five ministries each.

The Nepali Congress, the biggest party in parliament with 85 MPs, will hold most of the key portfolios: defence, home, finance, science and technology and the newly created peace and rehabilitation ministry.

Current home minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula, despite mounting demands for his resignation due to the deteriorating law and order situation, is expected to retain his post along with Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat.

Koirala's cousin Sushil Koirala is also tipped to be included in the new cabinet.

The Maoists have bagged the plum ministry of information and communications, local development, physical planning and works, forest and soil conservation, and women, children and social welfare.

The UML retains foreign affairs and culture, general administration and tourism and civil aviation, besides also getting education and sports and agriculture and cooperatives.

The Maoists' triumphant entry in the government means the loss of stature for former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, deposed by King Gyanendra in 2005.

From the third largest party in parliament and the government, Deuba's Nepali Congress (Democratic) goes one step down in the hierarchy and gets only three ministries in the new government: water resources, labour and transport and law, justice and parliamentary affairs.

Three of the minor partners in the government get one ministry each while the fourth, the Leftist Nepal Workers and Peasants Party, is to repeat its earlier stance and support the government from outside.

The United Left Front (UFL) gets land reforms, while Nepal Sadbhavana Party (Anandi) gets industry, commerce and supplies and People's Front health.

The Maoists were the first to announce the names of their ministers.

Maoist spokesman and chief of the parliamentary party Krishna Bahadur Mahara has been earmarked for information and communications while Hisila Yami, wife of Prachanda's deputy Baburam Bhattarai, has been named for physical planning and infrastructure.

Marking a change from the earlier practice of allocating women, children and social development ministry to a woman, the rebels have named Khadga Bahadur Bishwakorma, coming from an underprivileged community, for the portfolio.

Dev Gurung, a member of the Maoist peace talks team, has been named for local development while Matrika Prasad Yadav, a leader from the Terai plains, has been nominated for forest.

The UML was the next to announce its nominees. Pradhan gets the important foreign ministry portfolio and is expected to attend the SAARC foreign ministers' meet in New Delhi.

Pradip Nepal, foreign affairs in-charge of the party, has been named education and sports minister and Chhabilal Vishwokarma agriculture minister.

Prithvi Subba Gurung will be the new tourism, culture and civil aviation minister, replacing Pradip Gyawali, who was a member of the government team that held peace talks successfully with the Maoists last year.

Ramchandra Yadav has been named minister of state for general administration and Mohan Singh Rathore minister of state for education.

Two other minor allies have also named their candidates.

The UFL has nominated Jagat Bahadur Bogoti as land reforms minister while Nepal Sadbhavana Party (Anandi) selected Rajendra Mahato as the industry, commerce and supplies minister.

However, deposed premier Deuba was yet to announce the ministers from his party. (IANS)


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