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Prachanda to take charge as PM tomorrow

world Updated: Aug 17, 2008 12:14 IST
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Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda, the former guerrilla leader who led a successful war on Nepal's omnipotent royal dynasty, will finally take charge as the prime minister of the Himalayan republic on Monday, ending a four-month political vacuum.

After his thumping victory on Friday in the prime ministerial election over the Nepali Congress (NC), the largest party in the country before the emergence of the Maoists as a political force, Prachanda will formally assume control of a new government by taking oath of office and secrecy from President Ram Baran Yadav.

The oath-taking ceremony on Monday afternoon would be attended by heads of all security forces, diplomats and top bureaucrats. It indicates a sea change that swept Nepal since 1996, when the Maoists went underground to wage an armed struggle and were hunted down as terrorists.

This will be the first stint in power for Prachanda, who, in a political career spanning more than three decades, fought his first election in April this year and won convincingly from two constituencies.

It will also be the first Maoist-led government in Nepal, which was once an anti-communist Hindu kingdom ruled by the powerful Shah kings.

Prachanda's aide Baburam Bhattarai said along with the new prime minister, a 23-member council of ministers is also expected to be sworn in.

The ministries are to be shared among the Maoists and their two major allies who helped Prachanda win the prime ministerial election - the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) and ethnic party Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF).

Besides the big three, some of the minor parties are also expected to find a berth on the cabinet. Negotiations between the allies continued Sunday over power-sharing.

While the Maoists are expected to keep defence and finance ministries, the UML and MJF are wrangling over the post of deputy prime minister and other key ministries.

The two allies, who had deserted the Maoists to join former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala during the presidential race and defeated them last month, would need to be treated with kid gloves.

The MJF has already said that it would not join the Prachanda-led government if it is not given prestigious ministries.

The NC, which gave the country 13 prime ministers, will now sit in opposition.

Prachanda, Nepal's 50th prime minister in a line that saw the absolute rule of three kings, will be provided security by a special army contingent of 150 soldiers.

His major task will be to ensure that his coalition government stays in power for two years so that Nepal could have a new pro-people constitution.

Some of the tough challenges facing a Maoist-led government is to combat an acute fuel crisis, restore law and order, restructure the country into a federal republic, revive the economy and rehabilitate over 19,000 Maoist guerrilla soldiers as well as thousands of people displaced by the 10-year "people's war" his party fought in the past.