Prachanda’s new ministers sworn in

Kathmandu, 06 March: Maoist Center (MC) leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ has extended the cabinet with 16 new ministers from UML- Maoist coalition took oath of office and secrecy at Shital Niwas today.

Three other ministers –Dor Prasad Aryal, Hit Bahadur Tamang and Padam Giri–had taken oath of office two days ago.

Those administered oath of office today include 16 ministers that include three Deputy Prime Ministers, one each from CPN-UML, Raghubir Mahaseth; Maoist Center, Narayan Kaji Shrestha; Rashtriya Swatantra Party, Rabi Lamichhane; whereas the nominees of the Janata Samajbadi Party, may formally join it later.

The United Socialist Party sent two names- Bhanu Bhakta Joshi and Dhan Bahadur Budha- at the last minute.

Two days after Prachanda conspiratorially pulled the rug off Nepali congress, his coalition partner since February 2023 and roped in Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist– Oli and Prachanda managed to cajole Madhav Kumar Nepal led United socialist Party and the Janata Samajbadi Party.

Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) was among the first to agree to join the coalition of the two big communist parties–Maoist Centre and UML–on condition that its chief Rabi Lamichhane will be made one of the Deputy Prime Ministers with Home portfolio.

Narayan Kaji Shrestha conceded his home portfolio to Lamichhane but continues to be in the cabinet as senior most Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Nepali Congress, badly humiliated and discarded by Prachanda leaving it no option but to withdraw from the government, made a halfhearted effort to field Madhav Kumar Nepal as the Prime Minister candidate and garner at least 138 signatures to stake the claim and block Prachanda’s take over.

However, Nepal’s outright ‘no’ to the offer and his decision to get into the Prachanda-Oli bandwagon came as the blighter to the plot discussed at the residence of Party Chief Sher Bahadur Deuba.

The UML with 78 members in parliament got a lion’s share–total eight–followed by Maoists which has six ministers including Prime Minister and put ministries like Finance, Foreign Affairs, Communication and Energy.

The Janata Samajbadi Party was still ‘bargaining’ for an assurance that it would be given the Chief Ministership of Madhesh Pradesh that the big two communist leaders were not readily prepared for. JSP, despite agreeing to support the new coalition, has not yet given the names of its leaders to join the cabinet, although Upendra Yadav, is likely to be one of the four Deputy PM.

The RSP with 21 members in parliament is perhaps the biggest gainer in the current set-up as almost every fourth Member of Parliament is being inducted in the
cabinet. While Lamichhane will be the deputy Prime Minister in charge of Home, Sumana Shrestha, Biraj Bhakta Shrestha and Dor Prasad Aryal are the other ministers from the party.

Prachanda retained all the ministers except Sudan Kirati who was at the centre of controversy following his utterance against non-Christian faiths and the lease of Ramgram granted to a private company for 99 years that has since been stalled by the Public Account Committee of the parliament. He has been replaced by Hit Bahadur Tamang as Minister of Culture and Tourism.

UML will be led by Raghubir Mahaseth in the cabinet after Bishnu Poudel refused to join it at the last minute as Maoist insisted upon the Finance portfolio that Poudel was angling for being given to Barshaman Pun. Others included in the council of ministers from the UML are Padam Giri, Damodar Bhandari, Jwala Kumari Shah, Baburam Adhikary, Rajendra Rai, Hari Uprety, Bhagwati Chaudhary.

Ministers from CPN-UML:
Raghubir Mahaseth – Physical Infrastructure and Transport; Padam Giri- Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs; Damodar Bhandari- Industry, Commerce and Supply; Jwala Kumari Shah- Agriculture and Livestock Development; Balaram Adhikari- Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation; Rajendra Rai- Water Supply; Hari Uprety- Defence; Bhagwati Chaudhary- Women, Children and Senior Citizen.

Maoist Centre:
Narayan Kaji Shrestha- Foreign Affairs; Barshaman Pun- Finance; Shakti Basnet- Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation; Rekha Sharma- Communication and Information Technology; Hit Bahadur Tamang- Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation.

Rastriya Swatantra Party:
Rabi Lamichhane- Home Affairs; Sumana Shrestha- Education; Biraj Bhakta Shrestha- Youth and Sport; Dor Prasad Aryal- Labour, Employment and Social Security.

United Socialist Party:
Bhanubhakta Joshi- Federal Affairs and General Administration; Dhan Bahadur Budha- Urban Development.