| Newly-appointed ministers are sworn in at the Royal Palace in Kathmandu. (AFP)
Kathmandu, Nov. 18: In a move that can be construed as a slap in the face of the major political parties, King Gyanendra expanded the Lokendra Bahadur Chand Cabinet.
The new development comes after efforts to involve the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) in the month-old government failed.
A few days ago, the king had met former Prime Minister and president of the Nepali Congress, Girija Prasad Koirala, and K.P. Oli, number two in the CPN (UML). In his meeting with Gyanendra, Koirala had reiterated his party’s stand that the lower house of parliament, the House of Representatives, dissolved in May, be reinstated.
Oli, on the other hand, had expressed the view that the king was ready to work with the political parties. He had even suggested joining the government should the executive powers held by the king since the October 4 dismissal of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba be handed back to the Cabinet.
However, the general secretary of the CPN (UML), Madhav Kumar Nepal, who was out of the country during Oli’s meeting with the king, has stated his party would only support the government from the outside even if executive authority is restored.
The new faces in the Cabinet includes a staunch royalist—who significantly comes in as the number three in the government below the Prime Minister and the deputy Prime Minister — a couple of former Nepali Congress and CPN (UML) members each, businessmen, a medical doctor and an engineer. However, the line-up of 22 ministers and assistant ministers still has only one woman.
Maoist rebels continued their spree of bomb blasts in the capital. Today, another bomb went off in the house of a businessman on the outskirts of the city. The day before, they had set off an explosion at a sub-station belonging to the National Electricity Authority and at a private boarding school. No one was killed or injured in the incidents.
The government said yesterday it was trying to hold peace talks with Maoist rebels aimed at ending a six-year-old revolt despite recent deadly raids in the west of the Himalayan kingdom.
“I am confident that the meeting would begin very soon,” Gore Bahadur Khapangi, minister for Women, Children and Social Welfare, said. He gave no date.
He said the government was making serious efforts to contact the rebels. “They must make written proposals for talks with their demands,” he said.
Thousands of Maoist rebels fighting to topple the constitutional monarchy last Thursday stormed remote towns, Jumla and Gorkha in west Nepal. At least 140 people were killed in the fighting.
This was the latest in a series of attacks on government installations.
Both Chand and the rebels say they are keen for talks but have fixed no date.