Prachanda expands Nepal cabinet, CPN-UML joins government
Shirish B Pradhan Kathmandu, Aug 31 (PTI) Nepal's first post-monarchy cabinet was expanded today with the induction of 15 new Ministers, including six from a major Communist party in the Maoist-led coalition that joined the government after differences over miniasterial hierarchy were resolved.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' inducted six Ministers each from CPN-Maoist and CPN-UML, also giving three berths to smaller coalition partners. With this, the strength of the ministry reached 24.

Senior UML leader Bam Dev Gautam has been appointed as the Home Minister, the second-ranking portfolio, while the others from the party to join the cabinet were Minister for Water Resources Bishnu Poudyal, Local Development Minister Ramchandra Jha, Minister for Forest and Soil Conservation Kiran Gurung, Minister for Industry Ashta Laxmi Shakya and Minister for Youth and Sports Gopal Shakya.

The CPN-UML, the third largest party in the Constituent Assembly, had boycotted the oath-taking ceremony of the new cabinet on August 22 after the Maoists rejected their demand that Gautam's Home Ministry will have the second position according to seniority.

The Maoists were insisting that the Finance Ministry, which remains with the party, will be the number two post in the cabinet.

The cabinet expansion and resolution of differences with CPN-UML consolidates the Maoists' hold on power. The former rebels emerged as the single largest party in the landmark April 10 Constituent Assembly elections.

Earlier, the cabinet meeting headed by Prachanda today decided to add three new ministries -- Commerce and Supplies, Youth and Sports and Culture and State Restructuring -- mainly in order to accommodate smaller political parties.

Four ministers from CPN (Maoist) and Madhesi People's Rights Forum had earlier taken oath. With the new inductions, the Maoists will have 10 ministers in the cabinet.

The new Maoist Ministers are Hisila Yami (Tourism and Civil Aviation), Matrika Yadav (Land Reforms), Pampha Bhushal, (General Administration), Gopal Kirati (Culture and State Restructuring), Lekh Raj Bhatta (Labour) and Janardan Sharma (Peace and Reconstruction).

Interestingly, in the newly-expanded cabinet, Finance Minister Baburam Bhattarai and Tourism Minister Hisila Yami, both belonging to the CPN-Maoist, are husband and wife. Hisila is the daughter of Dharma Ratna Yami, who was deputy forest minister during the direct rule of King Tribhuvan, the grandfather of now-deposed monarch Gyanendra, in 1952.

Other inductees were Minister for Commerce and Supplies Rajendra Mahato from Sadbhavana Party, Science and Technology Minister Ganesh Shah from CPN-United and Minister for Health Giriraj Mani Pokharel from Janamorcha Nepal.

The Ministers were sworn in by Prachanda in Rashtrapati Bhawan in the presence of President Ram Baran Yadav.

However, as the authorities did not allow journalists, including the television crew, to enter the main gate of the Rashtrapati Bhawan during oath-taking ceremony, they boycotted the reporting of the event.

None of the Nepalese television channels covered the swearing-in ceremony. This was for the first time since democracy was restored in 1990 that journalists boycotted the oath-taking of the ministers.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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