Khanal sworn in as PM amid power sharing row with Maoists

Shirish B Pradhan

Kathmandu, Feb 6 (PTI) Nepal''s veteran communistleader Jhalanath Khanal was sworn in as the new prime ministertoday, even as his party failed to ink a power sharing dealwith its key ally Maoists, delaying the cabinet formation.

President Ram Baran Yadav administered the oath ofoffice and secrecy at a grand function in the presence of topNepalese leaders, including Vice President Parmananda Jha,caretaker prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, Maoist chairmanPrachanda, Nepali Congress president Sushil Koirala andParliament Speaker Subhas Chandra Nembang.

"I will remain committed and honest to the nation andits people to fulfill my duty," said 60-year-old Khanal.

Even as it ended a seven-month leadership vacuum inthe country, the cabinet formation was postponed as theCPN-UML failed to finalise a power sharing deal with it mainsupporter UCPN-Maoist who are seeking their pound of flesh forhaving ensured Khanal''s victory, sources said.

The much-awaited cabinet could not be formed today dueto differences between the coalition partners over keyportfolios. Now Khanal is likely to form a small cabinettomorrow.

The Maoist party, whose support was crucial ingarnering a majority in the House vote on Thursday, areapparently demanding proportional representation in thecabinet.

The UCPN-Maoist has 238 seats and the CPN-UML has 108seats in the Constituent Assembly, which acts as the country''sinterim Parliament.

The former rebels are pushing for key portfolios,including Home Ministry, which was rejected by Prime MinisterKhanal, leading to the delay in cabinet formation, accordingto a senior leader of CPN-UML.

CPN-UML sources said the party has finalised the namesof Bharat Mohan Adhikari, Bishnu Poudyal and GangaLal Tuladhar for key portfolios of Finance, Homeand Education. However, the UCPN-Maoist are yet to finaliseits cabinet members.

Two Terai based parties, Madhesi Peoples Rights Forumled by former Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav and MadhesiPeoples Rights Forum (Nepal) led by Mahendra Yadav are likelyto join the government, sources said.

Nepali Congress, the second largest party with 114members in the House, has decided to sit in the opposition.

There is growing anger in a section of the CPN-UMLparty and the Nepali Congress, which supported the Communistparty-led government since 2009, over a secret deal with theMaoists during the voting in the parliament, sources said.

Khanal''s party, which is the third largest party inthe parliament, got support from the main Opposition MaoistParty after Prachanda quit the race in a last minute decision.


Nepal''s parliament voted under revised election rules designed to break a deadlock that had left the country withouta government even after 16 rounds of elections.

The political deadlock over the last seven months hasbeen hugely damaging for Nepal, which is still reeling fromits decade of civil war that ended in 2006. At least 13,000people were killed in Maoist led insurgency.

The standoff has also delayed the drafting of a newconstitution and conclusion of the peace process.

The Maoists, who fought a 10-year battle againstthe state before entering politics and winning elections in2008, had pushed for leading a new coalition.

But they an did not have an absolute majority, and hadbeen unable to win the support of smaller parties that theywould need to form a coalition government.

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