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Khanal terms peace and constitution as top priority

Nepal’s new Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal has begun the task of forming a coalition government with participation of Maoists and other like-minded parties.

world Updated: Feb 04, 2011 16:46 IST
Utpal Parashar

Nepal’s new Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal has begun the task of forming a coalition government with participation of Maoists and other like-minded parties.

Khanal, who heads Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), got elected to the post on Thursday with support of Maoists, the largest party in parliament.

“My main priority would be to conclude the peace process and draft the new constitution within the May 28 deadline with support of all parties,” he said on Friday.

Khanal is expected to take oath of office on Sunday after President Ram Baran Yadav’s return from India.

The former science teacher will have to perform a tough balancing act since factions within his party and Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) had opposed the move to form an alliance.

Maoist vice-chairman Baburam Bhattarai and 50 other lawmakers from the party who opposed chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s decision to support Khanal are expected to stay out of the government.

Nepali Congress, a coalition partner in the previous CPN (UML)-led government has decided to remain in opposition, but support Khanal on peace and constitution-drafting issues.

Although Khanal and Dahal have kept mum on the nature of their agreement, The Kathmandu Post reported that both leaders had a seven-point deal prior to Thursday’s voting.

The agreement includes clauses on peace, rehabilitation of Maoist combatants, constitution drafting and formulation of a common minimum programme to run the government.

While Dahal is slated to remain out of the cabinet, leaders close to him are expected to get plum portfolios.

Krishna Bahadur Mahra, who allegedly sought money from a Chinese source to ‘fund’ Dahal’s bid for the PM post, is likely to become Deputy Prime Minister-cum-Foreign Minister.