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Nepal PM's bold move starts fresh political squabble

world Updated: May 05, 2011 14:51 IST
Utpal Parashar
Utpal Parashar
Hindustan Times
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Ignoring discordant voices from within his party, Nepal PM Jhalanath Khanal handed over the important home ministry on Wednesday evening to Maoists, the dominant coalition partner.

But the move that enabled Khanal to give proper shape to his cabinet, three months after taking charge, sparked a fresh squabble in Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), the party he heads.

Leaders in CPN (UML) are unhappy with Khanal for handing over the ministry to Maoists despite non-conclusion of the peace process or any significant progress being made.

"It's a unilateral decision on part of the prime minister to offer Maoists the home ministry without consulting senior leaders," senior CPN (UML) leader Pradeep Gyawali stated.

The move is expected to raise a storm in the party's politburo meeting starting on Thursday with several leaders opposing Khanal.

Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal is also facing flak for naming Krishna Bahadur Mahara as the home minister. Peace minister Barsha Man Pun, who was slated to get the post, has resigned.

Dahal's selection of ministers has been described as "unilateral" by party hardliners headed by vice-chairman Mohan Vaidya. Three ministers close to Vaidya didn't turn up for oath-taking on Wednesday.

Despite Dahal's recent commitment to peace, there is fear that with the home ministry in its kitty, Maoists would grant impunity to cadres involved in rights violations during the civil war and atrocities after it.

"Home affairs would also allow Maoists to control the security apparatus and government administration, and define the course of elections when term of the Constituent Assembly ends," senior journalist Kanak Mani Dixit had written in Nepali Times.

The decision to give the home ministry to Maoists is part of a secret seven point agreement between Khanal and Dahal that helped the former reach the prime minister's post in February.

Differences have also cropped up in Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (Nepal), the third major party in the five-party coalition, with co-chairman JP Gupta objecting to chairman Upendra Yadav's decision to join the government.