Surendra Phuyal in Kathmandu
More than a month after he sacked the Sher Bahadur Deuba-led government and installed a new handpicked government headed by Lokendra Bahadur Chand, King Gyanendra has expanded the size of the Chand-led cabinet, inducting 13 new ministers on Monday.
With the new additions, the total number of ministers in the Chand-led government has reached 22, seven among them being assistant ministers, according to a statement by the principle press secretariat of the King.
The new faces in the Chand government are technocrats, members of the civil society, businessmen and leaders of smaller parties.
They include water resources expert Deepak Gyawali as the water resources minister, former chairman of the national assembly and diplomat Ramesh Nath Pande as the general administration, information and communication minister, and chairman of Hariyali Nepal Party, Kuber Sharma, as the culture, tourism and civil aviation minister.
Similarly, former president of the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce, Mahesh Lal Pradhan has been appointed as the new minister for industry, commerce and supplies, and chairman of the newly-formed Nepal Samata Party, Narayan Singh Pun, as the new minister for housing, physical planning and works.
Former Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist leader, Devi Prasad Ojha, has been appointed as the minister for sports and education, another former UML leader Kamal Chaulagain as the minister for labor, transport and population and environment.
Former Nepali Congress leader Badri Narayan Basnet has been appointed as the minister for land reforms and forest and soil conservation.
The new assistant ministers in the Chand-led government are incumbent chairman of the Nepalese Federation of Commerce and Industry, Rabi Bhakta, Shrestha [assistant minister for tourism and civil aviation], former chief of the District Panchayat Jagat, Bahadur Gurung [assistant minister for industry, commerce and supplies], former Nepali Congress leader Rabindra Khanal [assistant minister for education and sports], urologist Dr Asharphi Shah [assistant minister for local development] and Dalit rights activist Prakash C Pariyar [assistant minister for land reforms and management].
The king announced the Chand-led government on October 11, a week after he sacked the Deuba-led government and assumed executive powers, attracting widespread criticism from political parties.
The development came amid expectations that the monarch would induct leaders of major political parties as the Nepali Congress and the UML.
The parties and the intellectuals, including the drafters of the 1990 constitution of Nepal, termed the king's move as undemocratic and unconstitutional.
Party leaders, however, expressed shocked at the development. "This was not something unexpected," said Nepali Congress' influential leader Narahari Acharya. "The entire process of cabinet formation and expansion is absolutely undemocratic."
A shocked UML leader KP Sharma Oli said, "This is against what we agreed upon during my audience with His Majesty last week. It looks like the king still feels that he is less powerful."
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