Hopes that the political crisis gripping the three-week-old government of Nepal would be resolved on Monday with the much-awaited expansion of the fledgling cabinet receded as the opposition Maoist party went on the warpath again, shutting down Kathmandu valley without prior intimation to protest the death of a cadre.
Rajendra Phuyal, an area in-charge of the former rebel group, had been missing for nearly a week and was declared dead Sunday.
"Police informed us on Sunday that he had been found dead and his body taken for post mortem," said his uncle, who did not want to be named.
"People are saying the post mortem report indicates he died after taking poison. We suspect foul play since he had no reason to kill himself. He was young, healthy and well-off. Why should someone who fought a war for 10 years kill himself?"
As the news of the death spread, enraged Maoist cadres blocked the way to the Teaching Hospital, disrupting traffic for several hours on Sunday.
It was followed by a shutdown on Monday that hit Kathmandu and its neighbouring district Lalitpur hard.
The protest diminished the hope that Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, who was expected to expand his 11-member cabinet on Sunday, would be able to accomplish it even on Monday.
The coalition government has been floundering since its birth due to fierce infighting in Madhav Kumar's own party, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), as well as the other allies.
Though Sunday it reached a power-sharing agreement with its biggest partner, former premier Girija Prasad Koirala's Nepali Congress (NC), it was on the verge of losing the support of a regional bloc of three parties from the Terai plains.
The Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, Terai Madhes Loktantri Party and Sadbhavana Party Sunday refused to join the government even after protracted negotiations, saying the best ministries had been collared by the UML and NC.
Of the three, the Forum, which is already in the cabinet with its leader and Deputy Prime Minister Bijay Kumar Gachhadar, is now threatening to pull out.
Almost immediately after joining the cabinet, the second faction in the Forum, led by former foreign minister Upendra Yadav, said it had withdrawn support to protest against the appointment of Gachhadar.
Now the Yadav faction is threatening to call a protest movement in the Terai plains. Three years ago, Yadav shot to prominence when his Terai movement shut down the plains for days, cutting off food and fuel supplies and bringing the government on its knees.
The jousting within the ruling coalition is being regarded with joy by the Maoists, whose coalition government collapsed last month after the UML walked out.
Since Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda resigned as prime minister on May 4, there has been unprecedented chaos with the nascent government unable to function and the Maoists keeping up a siege on parliament, refusing to let it sit.