Kathmandu, March 3 (IANS) Almost 23 months after the first government headed by the former Maoist guerrillas collapsed, the once underground party is now set to return to power after blowing hot and cold for weeks.
Former Maoist minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara, who became embroiled in a vote-buying scandal last year that torpedoed Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda’s ambition to become prime minister again, will lead the Maoist team in the new cabinet, Maoist mouthpiece Janadisha daily said Thursday.
Mahara, a former information and communications minister, will be deputy prime minister in the communist-led government of Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal, and is also likely to have his old ministry.
Though Khanal won the prime ministerial election with the support of the Maoists Feb 3, he has been running the government with only three ministers from his own party due to a protracted power-sharing row with the Maoists.
The impasse arose after Khanal secretly promised to give the Maoists the important home affairs ministry to enlist their support but reneged after winning the election and then facing his own party’s wrath over the clandestine deal.
After weeks of wavering, the standing committee of the Maoists finally said Wednesday that they would join the new government.
However, the names of the other Maoist ministers are yet to be finalised
“The three top leaders (Prachanda and his two deputies) are discussing the other portfolios today,” Maoist spokesman Dinanath Sharma said Thursday. “The meeting will re-convene from 3 p.m.”
The Maoist daily said the former rebels would get 11 ministries, including three plum portfolios: foreign affairs, information and communications, and physical planning and works.
Besides Mahara, four Maoist leaders likely to make it to the cabinet are Dev Gurung and Giriraj Mani Pokhrel, former ministers both, and sitting MPs Barshaman Pun and Top Bahadur Rayamajhi.
Pun is also a former deputy chief of the Maoists’ People Liberation Army.
Of the other names being considered, there are only two women.
The last-minute delay is due to the growing differences between Prachanda and his two deputies, with each pushing for the inclusion of his supporters.
The Maoists’ return to power will be a blow for Indian diplomacy. New Delhi had been urging Nepal’s parties not to share power with the Maoists till they demobilised the PLA and returned the public properties they had captured during the 10-year revolt.
India is also concerned at the Maoists’ growing campaigns against Indian joint ventures in Nepal, and has been pressing Nepal to sign a bilateral investment protection act without delay.